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[Editorial] Stop Police Corruption

Posted March. 26, 2009 10:52,   


Since Kang Hee-rak took over as commissioner general of the National Police Agency, a flurry of police wrongdoings has been brought to light. An officer in uniform acted as if he was cracking down on illegal gambling, but instead robbed customers at adult gaming cafes. Another policeman beat a taxi driver to death in a brawl over the fare. Six policemen received hundreds of dollars in bribes or favors every month from bar owners in return for glossing over irregularities. A senior officer who graduated from the Korea National Police University took a leave of absence to tutor at a private institute for police recruitment exams. Earning huge sums of money, he violated the National Public Official Act banning civil servants from for-profit activities.

Policemen are supposed to protect the people and property and keep basic order. Instead they are causing pain and suffering and committing illegal acts. In his inauguration speech, Kang said, “Police will consolidate public law enforcement authority and take a leap forward to become an advanced world-class force.” His call has fallen on deaf ears, however. More than a year has passed since the Lee administration started emphasizing law and order, yet reports of police corruption are common. The National Police Agency is a huge organization with nearly 150,000 staff, and hence problems big or small come with the territory. Considering the sheer severity of the irregularities, however, police will find it hard to establish basic order in the broader society. If basic order is in disarray, neither foreigners nor foreign capital will want to come to Korea. A higher per capita income does not make an advanced country.

Korea’s advancement should start with the public following laws and maintaining basic order. Only with a law-abiding population can mutual trust be established among individuals, while the country develops into an orderly society. This is why observance of law and order is considered a major factor behind social capital.

A report says Korea suffers 12 trillion won (880 million U.S. dollars) per year in social and economic damage due to illegal demonstrations. Laypeople also often beat and threaten policemen and obstruct law enforcement. Korea ranked near the bottom (27th) in law observance among the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. This stems in large part from the failure of police to maintain law and order.

No other country has policemen who try not to wear their uniforms like Korea. Officers should take pride in serving as enforcers of law and order who serve the public. For them to do that, they must first behave in a righteous manner to win public trust and respect.