Lee pledges fight against corruption in third year

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Lee pledges fight against corruption in third year

President Lee Myung-bak yesterday reiterated his commitment to fight corruption, urging public servants to refresh their ideals and push forward reform as his term continues.

“‘In my third year in office, I will sternly fight against three major forms of corruption - perennial irregularities involving public servants, local notables and regional media, irregularities in the education sector and the abuse of authority by the powerful,’” spokesman Kim Eun-hye quoted Lee as saying at a cabinet meeting in the Blue House.

As part of its campaign to eradicate corruption in the educational sector, the Blue House is currently reviewing a plan to curtail the authority of city and provincial education office heads. Kim said regional education office heads are wielding excessive power in a wide variety of areas, including spending and appointing personnel, and plans are underway to disperse the concentrated power.

Sources said the government intends to announce a grand plan to reform the education sector in the near future. Handing some of the education office heads’ authority to school headmasters and publicly recruiting school principals are among the measures under discussion.

The president’s remarks came after key law-enforcement and monitoring officials met Friday at the Blue House to discuss a plan to fight corruption. Officials from the civil affairs office of the Blue House, the Justice Ministry, the prosecution, the police, the Board of Audit and Inspection and the Prime Minister’s Office attended the meeting, a senior government source said.

The officials discussed plans to root out corruption in the areas identified by Lee, as well as public servants’ intervention in elections ahead of the June local elections.

“The attendees agreed that we must reform the personnel appointment system in order to root out corruption,” a participant said. “The administration does not want to see an obstacle in its governance, because past administrations have suffered from the aftermath of corruption.”

Lee said yesterday that his campaign has nothing to do with the upcoming June elections, stressing that the move is intended to fundamentally improve the nation’s governance. He said an administration’s third year is often a time of moral hazard, and all public servants must renew their determination to continue reform.

Lee has vowed repeatedly in recent weeks to fight corruption during his third year in office. He declared a war against corruption on Feb. 23 at a cabinet meeting and issued a warning to public servants this month.

The Democratic Party, however, said the Blue House’s focus on public servants’ irregularities is an attempt to influence the June elections. Park Joo-sun, a senior DP lawmaker, said the Blue House is abusing its power to launch probes against opposition candidates as a smear campaign tactic.

“The president must stop giving orders to prosecutors by guiding their probes in certain directions and toward certain subjects,” Park said.

By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
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