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[Editorial] Government Backed FTC Despite Its Bribes

Posted September. 28, 2007 03:17,   


It was revealed yesterday that a staff member of the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) pressured a construction company on its inspection list to give a sub-contractor a construction order. In return, the FTC employee was bribed with 20 million won as well as a large sedan.

If true, this level of misconduct is severe and goes against the rationale of the FTC itself, as its mission is fostering “fair and free competition” and encouraging creative corporate activities.

Recently, Grand National Party lawmaker Kim Jeong-hun received a report from the FTC that implied that the corruption scandals of FTC staff developed from the receipt of money and other goods as part of a strategic abuse of authority. Some FTC staff members were even prosecuted for receiving sexual entertainment services from enterprises. It is pathetic that the FTC targets companies for corruption while at the same time profiteering behind the scenes and engaging in non-business related activities.

It has also been disclosed recently that an FTC executive who was dismissed on charges of corruption within the organization is attending a graduate school paid for by taxpayers’ money. It is not only problematic for the FTC staff to commit crimes in the first place, but also a case in point where moral hazard in corresponding punishment is rampant.

The right to make on-the-spot investigations, account investigations, and document submission investigations are in the hands of the FTC, which is supposedly a “security administrator of the economy and market.” Corruption among the FTC staff, in this sense, is more worrisome than in other ministries because it is like asking a wolf to guard sheep. Analysts who say that the severity of the FTC’s corruption has its roots in its “the political symbiosis” with the Roh administration are gaining support.

The FTC under the Roh administration has excessively abused its administrative power by bullying newspapers that criticize it. Roh came into power when thousands of small-sized newspaper distribution centers nationwide that barely live on delivering merely thousands of newspapers, cried out in unison, “The FTC is a headache.” It is understandable that the Roh administration both directly and indirectly supports the FTC that acts on behalf of it. Most FTC officials accused of corruption live an easy life after being subject to mere slaps on the wrist and “light warnings.”

Due to this brand of loose government control and restraint over the FTC, it is more likely for FTC staff to be involved in corruption. Not only that, as the FTC “takes care of” companies more and more, its retirees find it easy to be employed at major companies or law firms with high salaries later on. This is because of the need for lobbying and utilizing the privileges of their former posts. By all accounts, it is time for a critical verification of whom the FTC exists for.