President Lee Myung-bak, entering his third year, has asked his administration to prevent corruption involving the relatives of high-ranking officials and himself and to hand down harsh punishment for violators. In the past, large-scale corruption scandals mainly emerged when an administration entered its third year because tension usually declines by that time. The seeds of corruption are planted in the first or second year and the buds grow up in the third. Such a phenomenon once rapidly brought about a lame duck president and put an administration in a vegetative state.
To discuss anti-corruption measures, the presidential office held a meeting of officials from the senior presidential secretariat for civil affairs, the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Board of Audit, prosecutors and police last weekend. They must crack down on corruption implicating those in power. At the same time, they also need to focus on corruption in education, chronic irregularities in the provinces, and potential violations ahead of the June 2 local elections. Prosecutors will hold a meeting of chief prosecutors to come up with strict countermeasures.
Most of all, government watchdogs should closely focus on themselves first. Efforts to root out corruption among the powerful should start with a probe into the presidential office, prosecutors, police and inspectors. Many people in power are asked for favors. Before investigating officials at other organizations, watchdogs should be determined to remove their own rotten parts. By doing so, their initiative to root out government corruption can earn trust from the general public.
When a new administration is elected, it usually investigates corruption in its predecessor. The reason this vicious circle cannot be severed is simple. Investigative organizations dare not crack down on corruption involving the incumbent administration. When a new government takes power, they raise their voices to root out corruption under the previous administration. Accordingly, government watchdogs have been called hyenas that attack only corpses. The opposition even labels investigations into corruption that occurred when it was in power as political retaliation.
The Lee administration should become Koreas first to breaks this vicious circle. To this end, it needs a strict attitude toward itself and severely punish those convicted of corruption. Korea could develop into an advanced nation only after investigative organizations cast off their negative image. It is hoped that such organizations grow further via fair investigations into corruption.