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[Editorial] Expose Corrupt Private Bodies

Posted November. 03, 2009 08:27,   


The Board of Audit and Inspection says 50 billion won (42.2 million dollars) of 463.7 billion won (391.6 million dollars) was embezzled or used for unauthorized purposes after auditing 543 private organizations that received more than 80 million won (67,500 dollars) per year from the Culture, Sports and Tourism Ministry, the Public Administration and Security Ministry, and the Environment Ministry between 2006 and this year. The internal government watchdog asked prosecutors to investigate 21 employees at 16 organizations suspected of embezzling 2.1 billion won (1.7 million dollars). This shows the severity of corruption and moral hazard at private organizations.

The suspected organizations include the Korean People’s Artist Federation, Korea’s largest artist group, and other right and left-wing organizations. Prosecutors must thoroughly investigate these groups regardless of their political stances and punish them if they violated the law. Left-wing groups claim that this particular inspection is oppression, but the government should not give in to this accusation. Furthermore, government officials that neglected their duty of retrieving, managing and supervising subsidies that were wrongly distributed must be punished as well.

The illegal activities of employees at private organizations are like those of white-collar criminals. Falsifying documents is the norm and about 234 forged certificates of money transfers that never took place with Photoshop have been discovered. Mentioning each embezzlement method is not enough to describe such vicious criminal activities. Exactly what the officials responsible were doing is something the public has a right to know.

Yet the Board of Audit and Inspection has not released the list of private organizations that misused subsidies even after embezzlement was discovered. Civic groups abroad unveil the content of individual donations, not to mention government subsidies. The state-run watchdog’s unwillingness to disclose the list could lead to misunderstanding that it is backing particular groups. The organizations in question include two civic groups. The release of the list is necessary to help members who support civic movements and make wise donations. If the government agency refuses to unveil the list, other civic groups could be adversely affected.

The government began handing out subsidies in 2001 after the Act on Sponsoring Non-Profit Private Organizations was enacted. The legislation is intended to support the activities of healthy civic groups and the development of the public interest and culture and art. Urgent measures are needed to prevent subsidies or taxpayers’ money from being abused elsewhere.