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Anti-Corruption Panel Eyeing Reunions

Posted March. 18, 2006 03:00,   


The Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption announced on March 17 that it would put more restrictions on the freedom of ministries and government agencies to organize informal meetings based on school or hometown. The decision is aimed at preventing corruption among government officials.

The announcement is part of the “2006 Anti-Corruption Policy Framework” reported by the commission to an anti-corruption conference. The meeting was presided over by President Roh Moo-hyun at Cheong Wa Dae.

The logic behind the decision is that government officials are more exposed to temptations of corruption when they are allowed to freely forge connections based on school or personal relationships among themselves. It is fairly common for officials in ministries such as the Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs to socialize with those from the same hometowns.

To limit these social gatherings, the anti-corruption commission plans to send to heads of ministries and agencies letters asking for cooperation.

The step-up in efforts to reduce sources of corruption is largely justifiable considering the recent golf scandal of former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan. In response, the commission has decided to reinforce the implementation of codes of conduct for ministers, vice ministers and heads of local governments.

The anti-corruption body is reportedly considering the revision of part of the codes of conduct governing the entertainment of public officials in order to further strengthen the codes.

According to the current rules, discipline is imposed only when there is an obvious link between entertainment and official duties. If carried through, the revision will remove this provision and allow the authorities to take issue with even the fact that a public official has had a meeting with an outsider.

If enacted, the modified, stronger rules will interfere with the freedom of government officials to attend a variety of social activities, let alone play golf.

Some officials grumble about the possible revision, saying, “If government officials are denied even the basic right to form private relationships because of their positions, it would be too much.”

Min-Hyuk Park mhpark@donga.com