By Robin Rhee
If you believe that money talks and is the root of all evil and that to err is human, then it should not come as a surprise that crimes happen now and then, here and there, since there is always a segment of the population which believes that laws are made to be broken and their social status/power put them above the law.
Various illegal acts may be called corruption, a scandal, racket, rip-off, scheme, scam, swindle, offense or violation ― among others. Perhaps there are so many names because the seriousness of crimes differs widely.
When crimes occur with frequency and permeate society from top to bottom, it's time to take a closer look.
Successive presidents have vowed to rid Korea of corruption, yet slush funds and borrowed name accounts continue to make news. Presidential staff members and senior officials have been accused of various offenses, including bribery. Election fraud and illegal surveillance are of particular concern.
Money envelopes and bottles of expensive liquor wrapped in cash were allegedly delivered to buy certain results. Perhaps they bought a political nomination, an academic appointment or insider knowledge. I wonder. Do they still pack apple boxes with cash?
Some say that insider information fuels land speculation, stock market trading and manipulation.
Rumors have long circulated that bribes and kickbacks are figured into the overall costs of large contracts.
Knock-off clothing, watches and electronics can be purchased on the street but it's a serious matter when atomic plant operators are accused of using knock-off parts and receiving kickbacks from local suppliers. Are some distributors also selling fake gas?
One might think that academia would be a bastion of honesty but it seems that's not the case. Colleges have been accused of misusing funds. Students have cheated on tests and plagiarized their papers. Researchers have fabricated their results. Some graduates have lied about their academic records. Theses and dissertations can be bought. It is even possible to set up installment payment schedules.
Parents of elementary school students are known to ply teachers with expensive gifts and delicious lunches with the tacit understanding that their children will receive extra attention and get extra privileges.
How do cultural relics get smuggled out of Korea and how do ``dead baby" capsules get smuggled in?
Recently police have been accused of accepting bribes from hostess bars and massage parlors.
Professional sports teams are being investigated after score fixing were alleged.
Isn't it deplorable that more than 500 childcare facilities have allegedly embezzled government subsidies?
Crime isn't always dark and ugly however. Sometimes it can be downright hilarious. Stories about dumb criminals in the U.S. provide more than a few laughs. Every year one or two lame brains try to gain illegal access to a business through the chimney. Unlike Santa Claus they get stuck and have to wait for the police to rescue them.
Some thieves drop or accidentally leave their wallets at the crime scene which assures a swift arrest.
And it doesn't take a lot of street smarts to know that using a bicycle to flee a crime scene is not a wise move.
I think the case of the Korean diplomat and the diamond mine would make a great novel and/or movie.
And somehow just thinking about a group of Buddhist monks drinking and gambling makes me smile.
Korea is once again gearing up for a presidential election. It is expected that candidates will promise to root out corruption. Based upon past results, perhaps that is the funniest story of all.
The writer is a former weekly columnist for The Korea Times and currently resides in Centerville, Ohio. Her email address is RRKORAM@aol.com.