More rotten than ever
A country cannot be corrupt and advanced as well
It is shameful enough that Korea dropped four more notches in global corruption awareness ranking to 43rd place last year. What’s even more shameful is not many Koreans seem surprised.
The nation scored 5.4 on a scale of zero to 10, also down from 5.6 in 2008, according to the annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) report from Transparency International, a Berlin-based nonprofit organization. The score barely hovers above the ``absolute corruption level” of 5.0.
All these figures should come as little surprise for people who almost daily face the news about briberies, grafts and other corruptive acts committed by officials in all the three branches, namely bureaucrats, lawmakers, prosecutors and even judges. The number of civil servants punished for corruption has jumped 5.5 times in this administration.
In a way, this may be inevitable for a government that often seems to think the end justifies the means. President Lee recently said corruption in this country is nothing new but it is more noticeable now thanks mainly to his fair society campaign. The chief executive’s self-defense only points to the main reason corruption has aggravated since he took office four years ago ― the sheer insensitivity to what’s right and wrong.
As everybody knows, few of the President’s appointees for Cabinet posts have been free from one ethical problem or another. So much so that people used to joke Cabinet ministers under the Lee administration should meet three requirements (of ethical lapse) ― bogus residences for property speculation or better school districts for children, hardly justifiable exemptions from military duty, and academic plagiarism in the case of college professors.
President Lee himself has been at the core of controversy mainly related with amassing a fortune, ranging from the suspicious fund management firm in his candidate days to the recent secretive land deal for his retirement home. The President may be free from blame legally, but he cannot avoid all responsibility ethically, at least for changing his words and positions. The chief executive might as well recall a Korean old saying, ``A servant is only as honest as his master.” In Korea today, servants even under honest masters are not always honest.
The Lee administration is proud of some figures, such as 14 (the world’s 14th largest economy), nine (ninth-biggest trader) and 20 (one of the G20 countries). These are fitting accomplishments for a government that values global standards and ``national dignity” ahead of all else. From now on, however, a figure President Lee and his administration must bear in mind without fail is 43, the corruption awareness ranking, and how to pull it up to at least 20 or 14 and nine.
For that to happen, President Lee will need to revive the anti-corruption commission as an independent agency, tighten rules in transparency for both public and private sectors and introduce tough anti-bribery laws.
A country can never be corrupt and advanced at the same time. More important for the Lee administration, corruption hinders economic development, too.