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[Editorial] No Subsidies for Corrupt Civic Groups

Posted October. 08, 2009 09:16,   


The Board of Audit and Inspection investigated 543 private organizations that received financial government support of more than 80 million won (68,300 U.S. dollars) per year from 2006 to last year. The majority of them were found to have embezzled money. The leadership of certain organizations took more than 100 million won (85,400 dollars) as a bonus or other individuals embezzled the money. The Korean People’s Artist Federation, one of the largest left-wing artist groups in the country, was on the list. The agency plans to release the details of the embezzlement and ask prosecutors to investigate suspects.

Opposition lawmakers say the government watchdog is targeting civic groups sympathetic to opposition parties, but this is not true. This audit has been conducted following the decision made by both the ruling and opposition parties at the National Assembly’s budget and account committee. Board of Audit and Inspection Chairman Kim Hwang-sik said, “We’re not interested in political tendencies but rather how the government’s money is being embezzled. I will take responsibility.” The main opposition party should not try to represent an organization that embezzles subsidies. It is also problematic for civic groups who misuse state funds to claim suppression by the audit.

The Non-profit Civic Group Support Act was enacted in 2001. The government subsequently handed out subsidies to support the growth of sound civic groups and contribute to the public interest and the development of a democratic society. The majority of civic groups that received the money stopped their projects or ran them loosely. The funds were considered by some as money at their disposal. When 187 subsidy-receiving groups joined the People`s Association for Measures against Mad Cow Disease, which led the mass candlelight vigils against U.S. beef imports last year, criticism arose that taxpayers’ money was misused for illegal violent protests. This is why the Lee Myung-bak administration cut the annual subsidy in half to five billion won (4.27 million dollars) from 10 billion won (8.54 million dollars).

Civic groups must pursue the public good and transparency. If they lack the will and power to remain transparent, they should neither ask for subsidies or call themselves civic groups. They are hypocritical if they misuse subsidies but demand to know how provincial or municipal government leaders spend their funds. Even taxpayers will not forgive them.

No subsidy should go to civic groups that are corrupt or involved in illegal violent protests, and the money already handed out should be retrieved. The Lee administration should not resort to the strategy of its two predecessors in using subsidies as a carrot to get civic groups to side with the government.