Go to contents

[Opinion] The Level of Integrity

Posted January. 04, 2005 22:31,   


Chung Yak-young, a renowned scholar from the Joseon Dynasty who is also known as Dasan, wrote in his book “Mokmin Simseo” in detail about how corrupted local governors cause public plight and harmful effect on industries. New governors of Happo (Masan of today) coveted pearls in the local waters. The greedy governors pressed local people to pick pearls, and soon the area ran out of pearls because they moved to other sea areas. That led to a decreasing number of merchants visiting the area, which in turn caused a declining industry and people. Maengsang, a newly appointed governor-general of Happo, abolished the wrong practice of the former governors, which caused the pearls to be available again in the area and traders to come and go again.

Ajeon, low-ranking officials of provincial office in the Joseon Dynasty, were notorious for abuse. “Mokmin Simseo” sarcastically said that the public lives on land, but Ajeon live on the public. Appointment requests through powerful high-ranking ministers in the central government or rulers of provinces seem to have been serious. Dasan says that provincial officials are associated with high-ranking ministers and rulers of provinces, and ignore their bosses, governors, and abuse the public, and that great governors are those who do not succumb to them.

The Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption released the level of integrity of central ministries and local government bodies. For the first time ever, the detailed evaluation on 234 local government bodies was announced in the survey. Seven cities and counties scored more than nine out of 10 points, which are Samcheok, Yanggu County of Gangwon Province, Hadong County of South Gyeongsang Province, North Jeju County of Jeju, Goisan County of North Chungcheong Province, Euwang of Gyeonggi Province, and Boeun County of North Chungcheong Province. It explains a lot that the six biggest cities—Seoul, Busan, Daegu, Incheon, Gwangju, and Daejun—do not have a single local government body which scored more than nine points, while Gangwon, Jeju and North Chungcheong Province have many.

Dasan explained that self-control of governors themselves is the very principle of regulating Ajeon. That means that if governors are faultless and impress others with their integrity, they do not have to lead others with many orders. A governor in his time is the same position of a mayor or county governor of today. If the level of integrity released by the Commission gain more public reliance, the public could vote in provincial elections based on the evaluation. Businesses, for their part, could also choose investment destinations according to the evaluation. In a more transparent society, integrity will be the best policy.

Hwang Ho-taek, Editorial Writer, hthwang@donga.com