ACRC taking lead to embrace diverse society
Anti-corruption body launches Sri Lankan language service
By Jung Min-ho
The state-run Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) has taken a meaningful step forward by launching a Sri Lankan language service on its homepage.
It held an event Friday at the Sri Lankan Embassy in Seoul to celebrate the initiative which will benefit 23,000 Sri Lankan residents who may have language issues here.
“In a bid to be part of the international movement for a global community, the Korean government has made persistent efforts to protect the rights and interests of the foreign residents,” the ACRC Chairman Lee Sung-bo said. “The launch will enable many Sri Lankan residents to report cases (to us) when they face unfair treatments. Also, I hope this will improve the brotherly relationship between the two nations.”
It was a prompt response to the embassy’s request for the language service on Sept. 9, adding Sri Lanka’s Sinhala to the current 12 language channels.
The ambassador and senior embassy staff reacted positively to the announcement, expressing their gratitude for the ACRC’s “considerate and civil” efforts.
“Since I came here as an ambassador two years ago, I have lent an ear to stories of Sri Lankan workers. I expect the language service will bridge the communication gap between the government and the people,” said Sri Lankan Ambassador to Korea Watte Walawwe Tissa.
The launch will provide an opportunity not only for migrant workers but all Sri Lankan residents by opening the door to their political participation, said Sri Lankan Embassy Minister Counsellor Lakshitha Ratnayake.
“Korea and Sri Lanka have maintained an amicable relationship and share interests in many sectors, including politics, economy, trade and other social factors,” Ratnayake said. “This will definitely strengthen the relationship even further.”
In the light of “hallyu,” or the Korean cultural wave, the country is becoming one of the most popular destinations to work among Sri Lankans said Ratnayake, noting more people from his country are expected to come here.
Since the establishment of diplomatic ties with Sri Lanka in 1977, Korea has been in a cordial and productive relationship with the island country. The friendship was recently highlighted by a summit meeting in Seoul on April 24 during Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa’s four-day visit to meet his counterpart Lee Myung-bak.
Outreach via multilingual service
Lee said Friday, “The ACRC will continue to work on expanding and improving multilingual petition services,” in comments aimed at rising demand for systematical improvements for foreign residents.
With changing demographics in a country which had more than 10 million overseas visitors this year for the first time, the ACRC provides 11 foreign language services, including English, Chinese and Japanese.
On the website, non-Korean speakers can file petitions, corruption reports and even can make policy suggestions.
“We see it as very significant step to embrace the differences. All foreign nationals of 20,000 or more residing in Korea now enjoy the language service here,” ACRC Director General Choi Hak-gyun said. “This is also an opportunity for us to enhance the nation’s prestige in the international community.”
Choi said the genial treatment of other countries in return is expected, and they will protect the rights of Korean nationals abroad.
Several improvements have been made in recent years, including the Indonesian government’s Korean language service launch on its website in June to help Korean nationals to file petitions.
The ACRC’s first-rate service, underscored by people’s active participation, has received accolades from many international organizations, including the United Nations.
This year, 1,351,191 petitions, up from 1,073,499 last year, and 105,111 policy suggestions were received as of November. And the number of visitors to the website is on an obvious upward trajectory, which gets an average of 100,000 daily visitors.
Since its foreign language service started in 2008, a total of 2,825 complaints have been received in different languages, mainly English, and the ACRC expects the number to grow.
'Outreach program will prove Korea's edge'
The ACRC homepage is an open channel to communicate with not only citizens but everyone to achieve the organization’s ultimate goal: resolving people’s grievances, protecting their rights and fighting corruption, the ACRC chairman said.
“About 1.9 million foreigners are staying in Korea. When faced with unfair treatment or inconveniences, their problems usually remain unsolved or go through much more complicated procedure to be resolved because of language problems,” Lee said. “To rectify the situation, we have provided the Global e-Petition System since June 2008.
The Global e-Petition System allows foreigners to directly file complaints or policy suggestions in 11 languages.
English speakers have taken advantage of the benefit the most as they account for more than 90 percent of the total petitions with 2,529 out of 2,825, followed by those in Chinese, Japanese, Mongolian and Vietnamese.
“This will contribute to uniting society by helping people in need, evaluating cooperative ties with Sri Lanka,” Lee said. “This can also be an opportunity for the government to show its competitiveness and how trustworthy it is by demonstrating its troubleshooting ability.”
ACRC inspired efforts have spawned memorandums of understanding with Thailand, Uzbekistan, Mongolia and most recently Vietnam where many Koreans live. With the agreements, Koreans there enjoy reciprocal benefits.
“The ACRC’s project of expanding the service to more people abroad just started and will continue,” Lee said.
In addition to meeting its motto of Korea being seen as warm-hearted and transparent, the ACRC has tried to participate in international anti-corruption campaigns, including the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention and the U.N. Convention Against Corruption. It also is a member of the International Ombudsman Institute and the Asian Ombudsman Association.
Harmony and creativity symbolize the organization. It was founded in 2008 by the integration of the Ombudsman of Korea and the Korea Independent Commission against Corruption and the Administrative Appeals Commission in an attempt to prevent administrative confusion.
“We pledge to make consistent efforts to build clean and transparent nation in which everyone has equal rights and opportunities,” Lee said.
Since then, Yang Kun was anointed as the first chairperson, followed by Lee Jae-oh and Kim Young-ran who bowed out of the post after her husband, Kang Ji-won, declared his presidential bid in the fall.
Before her resignation, Kim, the nation’s first female Supreme Court justice, said it was inappropriate for her to stay in the role concerning her potential “political intervention” in the election.
In his inaugural speech, Lee resolved to root out corruption that he called a “chronic disease” in society.
After graduating from Seoul National University with a law degree in 1979, he passed the bar exam and became a judge in 1984. He had practiced law for 28 years before he took the post.