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[Editorial] Bribery in Provincial Administration

Posted August. 29, 2009 07:57,   


Prosecutors yesterday said the former commissioner of the North Chungcheong Provincial Police Agency, Lee Chun-seong, who was arrested for taking bribes Thursday, used 20 bank accounts under his subordinates’ names over several years to withdraw or deposit money amounting to three billion won (2.4 million U.S. dollars). When personnel reshuffles occurred, a combined 1.2 billion won (960,000 dollars) was deposited in his borrowed-name accounts in increments of tens of millions of won (tens of thousands of dollars). With the probe expanded to include an Ulsan police officer to trace the sources of the funds, police corruption will be brought to light soon.

Whenever personnel reshuffle season comes around at police agencies, rumors swirl that officers scramble for promotion through personal connections and information gathering. It is appalling that officers can still buy posts and promotions. Prosecutors must eliminate this dirty practice through a thorough investigation.

In his speech marking Liberation Day Aug. 15, President Lee Myung-bak promised to eradicate influence peddling and corrupt practices that are chronic in certain regions. Corrupt cops who buy posts will encourage such abuses of power and illegal practices in provincial areas. It is easy to see how such corrupt cops will make up for money they spend to buy posts.

Buying posts is prevalent among government officials. In June, the head of a public agency in Iksan, North Jeolla Province, was indicted for giving 30 million won (25,000 dollars) in bribes to an influential figure in return for a promotion. In May, Hong Sa-ryp, the head of Seoul’s Dongdaemun district, resigned after he was charged with taking 32 million won (25,700 dollars) in bribes from a subordinate for a promotion. Prior to this, Kim Hyo-kyeom, the head of Seoul’s Gwanak district, was fired after being sentenced to prison for personnel corruption.

Provincial heads are allegedly agonizing over how to secure election funds in the run-up to the local elections next year. Though the public sector has grown more transparent, dirty lawmakers and provincial officials still take bribes from candidates running for provincial and municipal councils. Of 116 public officials indicted for corruption, most were provincial heads and officials who took bribes from vested interests in return for concessions.

For Korea to be an advanced country, corruption in the public sector must be quickly eradicated.