Posted November. 18, 2009 08:51,
Korea score 5.5 out of 10 points in the annual Corruption Perceptions Index released yesterday by Transparency International, ranking 39th among 180 countries. The ranking rose a notch this year but the score was slightly down from 5.6 of last year. This indicates that the Korean people widely distrust government officials and politicians. The average corruption index of the 30 member countries of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is 7.04, but Korea has remained at the five-point level since 2005. Among those in the organization, Korea ranked 22nd in corruption, one of the worst in the group along with Poland and the Czech Republic.
Koreas surveys on the peoples perception of public sector corruption showed a similar sentiment. According to a poll of expatriates conducted by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in December last year, half said public sector corruption is prevalent in Korea and 58 percent said corruption significantly hurt their business. In a survey conducted in November last year by the same agency, 20 percent of expats said they had bribed public officials in Korea. Of those who gave bribes, 58 percent said they did so to keep favorable relations with civil servants, 25.9 percent said to maintain customary practices, and 15.6 percent to express gratitude. Given that the survey was done by a government agency, the situation might be much worse than the results of the poll suggest.
One businessman said he received an explicit request for bribes from a public official when he and his American partner searched for a site to build a residential complex for the elderly. In return for bribes amounting to 0.9 percent of the purchase price, the official reportedly said he would expedite administrative procedures. Public officials in the provinces, who are supposed to do their best to draw investment, are blinded by money and act as real estate agents working for commissions. When the businessman asked a public employee in another area to search for a site, he or she demanded four percent of the purchase price as a bribe. This is certainly not an isolated case.
Public sector corruption hinders business activities, undermines the quality of public services, and hurts Koreas credibility abroad. Efforts to advance the country will go nowhere unless the public sector rids itself of corruption. Laws and regulations must be revamped and revised to raise the integrity of public officials and make the public sector transparent.