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[Opinion] The 2nd Oldest Profession

Posted April. 03, 2006 03:00,   


People often call prostitution mankind’s oldest profession. What about the second oldest one? Many think it is bribery.

The history of corruption is deep-rooted. Former federal court Judge John Noonan wrote in his book “Bribes” that bribery has been recorded as a social nuisance ever since the 15th Century BC in Egypt. It is said that the ruling Egyptian dynasty at the time severely punished bribery and regarded “presents given in order to escape punishment” as bribery cases.

The difference between bribes and gifts is not clear. It is not easy to determine whether a gift is a bribe for benefit by using, or whether it is just an expression of one’s favor upon another.

Although one can soon figure out what it actually is after reckoning the consequences of the situation, it still is a tricky issue to judge legally. This is because one should verify whether the act was carried out in return for a favor. That is why bribes turn into “political funds” or “holiday gifts” in many cases. No wonder the word “bribe” initially meant “present.”

It was discovered that some influential group members on economic policy during the former President Kim Dae-jung government, such as former Deputy Prime Minister for Economy Lee Hun-jae, and former Finance and Economy Minister Kang Bong-gyun (Uri Party), accompanied by their spouses, made a trip to Australia with the financial broker Kim Jae-rok in September 2000. Kim, who was a vice chairman of the Arthur Anderson Korea at the time, allegedly provided the politicians with not only their tour costs, but also Olympic Games tickets.

Kim is now suspected of handling almost all the company restructuring projects led by the DJ administration.

Lee and Kang weren’t holding public offices when they traveled to Australia. It was after the two of them retired from their official positions. Kang strongly denies the trip was a lobbying one, saying, “I was not in a position to be lobbied,” based on the above matter. Regarding his daughter’s working at Kim’s company, Kang also claimed that his daughter was properly scouted by the company.

But the two of them were expected to return to politics. In particular, Lee is the one who generated the word, “Lee Hun Jae Corporation.” It is obvious that Kim knew that the structure of Korea’s economic bureaucracy is famous for its mutual insurance relationships between incumbent and former members.

Song Dae-keun, Editorial Writer, dksong@donga.com