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Governance

Birth of corruption and countermeasures

Third and Fourth Republics (1961 to 1979): Birth of Corruption and Countermeasures
 
(1) Park Administration’s Approach to Corruption
 
The leaders of the May 16 coup d’état rose to power on the back of campaigns protesting the social chaos that had arisen under the Democratic Party’s rule and the incompetence of those in power. The coup leaders’ main revolutionary pledge was the termination of all corruption once and for all.[1] Accordingly, they formed the Supreme Council for National Reconstruction (SCNR), a provisional ruling body, and officially announced their resolve to fight and eliminate all forms of illegalities and corruption.[2] Their determination remained strong even after the SCNR transferred its power to the Civilian Government in the newly born Third Republic, as manifested in the inaugural addresses of presidents. President Park Chunghee, the founder of the Third Republic, focused mainly on correcting and eliminating the corrupt behavior of government employees. The Park administration blamed corruption fundamentally on the “depraved bureaucratic cast of mind” of “unthinking government employees.” It asserted the root causes of corruption as outdated ideas and customs, and the destruction of ethics and values by external influences.
The ex-post-control approach to corruption persisted under the Park administration, as its anti-corruption efforts mainly involved ferreting out and punishing corrupt wrongdoers. Early in its term the Park administration launched forceful and comprehensive inspections in an effort to secure a degree of legitimacy for the coup and the military government formed in its aftermath, and to put an end to the rampant corruption of the old ruling class. The Park administration touted a policy of fair rewards and harsh punishments as the most effective instrument for ending corruption, and accordingly launched a series of ambitious anti-corruption activities, principally featuring audits and inspections, via the newly organized Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI). Whereas the Audit and Inspection Rules of 1955 and the Inspection Board Act of 1961, passed under the First and Second Republics, confined the two organizations to inspecting on-duty corruption of government employees only, the Board of Audit and Inspection Act (BAIA) of 1963 brought the duties of government employees under the BAI’s scope of inspection, thus giving the organization a much wider range of function and authority (BAI, 1988, 381).
Nevertheless, the zeal to fight corruption gradually waned and became subject to corruption itself, repeating the course of the Rhee administration, as the Park administration strengthened and protracted its grip on power. Determination to prolong President Park’s dictatorial rule, even at the cost of increasing the presidential tenure to three terms and introducing the October Constitutional Reform, toppled the anti-corruption drive of the administration’s early days. Meanwhile, corruption ran all the more rampant as the ties between the ruling elite and leading businesses turned pervasive and chronic. The collusive partnership between politics and businesses was a byproduct of a number of developments, including, the heavily state-directed process of economic development; the prolonged one-man rule backed by the military government and the unbridled expansion of the President’s power; and the blind worship of money and materialism, all of which rendered bureaucratic corruption rather a natural state. The astonishing pace at which economic development proceeded also deepened the class divide, and heightened alienation and mutual distrust across Korean society. The Park administration blamed corruption and other forms of social malaise on “the fanatical pursuit of a Western-style liberal democracy,” and pushed for constitutional reform to restore order to Korea’s social and ideological chaos, a push which ultimately resulted in the Yushin Constitution of October, 1972. In an effort to secure a semblance of legitimacy for the Constitution, the Park administration tackled illegalities, corruption, inefficiency, and other societal problems on a wide scale, particularly stressing the need to reform the spirit and work ethic of bureaucrats.[3]
The ethical reforms of the Yushin government waged centered on two main pillars: 1) eliminating all forms of irrationalities and absurdities among government employees and in the bureaucracy as a whole by reinforcing official discipline; and 2) pursuing activities and programs for social purification. By planting the seeds of a moral and spiritual revolution nationwide, the Yushin government sought to turn the Korean people upright, upbeat, and productive. For the ultimate goal of the ethical reforms was national revival based on renewal and reinforcement of national strength. The Park administration, accordingly, named the purification of bureaucratic culture, the purification of society at large, and spiritual revolution as the three key objectives of its Bureaucracy Reform Movement. To achieve the first objective, i.e., the purification of bureaucratic culture, all forms of corruption and absurdities had to be eliminated at the root level, and inefficient and wasteful administration systems had to be dealt with to remove all structural irregularities. Next, the overall environments in which bureaucratic institutions existed and the people that comprised them had to be “purified” so that government employees could regain the people’s trust. For this, the subjects of purification were thus grouped into four categories, namely, government employees, tasks, systems, and surrounding conditions. The Park administration designated corruption a top-priority issue on its policy agenda for social purification, and was the first in Korean history to attempt a more preventive and proactive approach to corruption, i.e., by focusing on eliminating or improving institutional and socio-cultural factors of corruption over and beyond handling incidents of corruption in an ex-post manner. Despite the rise of a more comprehensive approach to corruption, however, the social purification campaign failed to culminate in any meaningful and lasting solutions. The Yushin government, long opposed and resented by the people for its obsessively repressive actions, was finally brought down with the assassination of President Park on October 26, 1979.
 
(2) Characteristics and Outcomes of the Anti-Corruption Measures of the Park Administration
 
1) Organizational measures
The Park administration merged the Accounting Office, founded under the Constitution of 1948, and the Inspection Board, having its basis in the National Government Organization Act (NGOA), into a body under direct presidential supervision, naming it the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI). The BAI is still in operation today. The BAI was set up to ensure the legality and rationality of accounting and auditing, and to improve administrative tasks and activities through inspections. Under the Third Republic its main function was to conduct duty inspections on government employees, though it also carried out a variety of other anti-corruption activities at various organizations. The Investigation Committee for Administrative Reform (ICAR), which came into being on June 1, 1964, reported directly to the President and facilitated lawmaking on an array of administrative reform projects, but was ultimately ineffective in its anti-corruption efforts and administrative drive. The ICAR was subsequently downsized and made to report to the Prime Minister, and its name was changed to the Administrative Reform Committee before it was finally abolished in 1981. Another major focus of the government was inspecting areas of public service that involved frequent civilian contact. These inspections, however, were only carried out upon direct request from the President, which resulted in inconsistency. On the whole, the Park administration’s anti-corruption efforts still depended on a fragmented system that lacked independence and expertise.
The main organizations overseeing the Yushin government’s drive for anti-corruption were the Special Office of the Secretary to the President for Audit and Inspection in the Blue House, and the Office of the Secretary to the Prime Minister for Administrative Coordination in the Prime Minister’s Office. The former came into being in July 1971 for the purpose of assisting the President with respect to various governmental inspections. The latter, as the overseer of all bureaucratic reforms implemented by the Cabinet, supervised, coordinated, directed, and monitored the bureaucratic reform efforts of various agencies, ministries, departments, and offices. In addition, the Park administration established the Audit and Inspection Council, the Ministerial Council for Audit and Inspection, and the Cooperative Council for Audit and Inspection as advisory and consultative bodies. The various ministries and departments of the central government and local administrations also set up their own provisional bodies to promote the Bureaucracy Reform Movement, and these included special teams for inspection, confirmation and monitoring, and mobilization, as well as driving committees..
These bodies, however, generated certain unwanted side effects in carrying out their audits and inspections. In this point it needs to be pointed out that the bureaucratic reform drive of the era was waged without adequate statutory grounds chiefly for the purpose of consolidating the Park administration’s grip on power. Thus most of the anti-corruption and social purification measures of the Fourth Republic were carried out via informal and provisional audit and inspection bodies that had direct relations with President Park, enabling him and his inner circle to direct and control all aspects of the auditing and inspection processes. And so it was that these bodies served to reinforce even further the atmosphere of tension and fear that already weighed heavily on Korean society then, as they became agents of political oppression and protectors of the ruling power rather than agents for solving bureaucratic and social problems.
 
2) Legal and institutional measures
Eliminating corruption was one of the revolutionary pledges of the military government, and accordingly, it enacted the Act on Emergency Measures for National Reconstruction on June 6, 1961—the third retroactive legislation issued since the foundation of the Republic of Korea. Article 22 of the legislation states: “The Supreme Council for National Reconstruction may enact special legislation, and set up a special court and a prosecutor’s office, in order to levy punishment to parties who have engaged in anti-national and/or anti-revolutionary acts or fraudulences either before or after the military revolution.” It was based on this provision that the military government enacted the Act on the Treatment of Illegally Amassed Wealth as well as the Special Act on Special Crimes. The former marked the first instance in which the Korean government sought to control and penalize corruption through legislative means. It included provisions regarding the seizure and recall of illegally amassed wealth and the penal measures to be taken against those involved, and granted the state complete immunity against lawsuits regarding its decisions and actions in such matters.
The Park administration also saw the enactment of the Government Employees Act (GEA) in 1963, which ultimately provided the legal grounds for rational administration and personnel management. The open-competition examination system introduced by the GEA marked a groundbreaking change in the history of government employee recruitment, and served to mitigate the corruption associated with government jobs. The GEA not only promoted the rationalization of personnel management, but also provided a core standard or basis for the government’s drive to purify bureaucratic culture.[4] The GEA detailed the ethical requirements of government employees, including the duty of good faith, the duty of obedience, and the duty of integrity, and placed a ban on holding concurrent profit-making jobs. Though not specific solutions for ending corruption, these requirement nonetheless delineated the proper attitude and work ethic required of bureaucrats. The military government also enacted the Duty Classification Act on November 1, 1963, and the Government Employees Training Act on May 3, 1963—both attempts to revolutionize the public personnel administration system and enhance the integrity and accountability of the bureaucracy.
The Bureaucracy Reform Movement led by the Yushin government mainly involved instituting modifications to rules and regulations pertaining to public service, with the goal of eliminating or improving absurd, obsolete, and irrational administrative practices. While these tasks shared much in common with the administrative reforms attempted previously, they also placed greater emphasis on eliminating corruption at its root through intensive investigations and improvements. The government also urged government-operated enterprises to embark on general courses of administrative reforms by organizing their own inspections. Voluntary, internal inspections by individual organizations were needed to identify the causes of all forms of illegalities, corruption, and irregularities, and to prepare a new system that would enable government employees to provide friendly, fair, prompt, and effective services.
 
3) Efforts for controlling and handling corruption
The Third Republic sought out harsh punishments for corruption, ignoring existing laws and procedures, as part of its drive to fulfill its revolutionary pledges. The Act on the Treatment of Illegally Amassed Wealth passed during this time broadened the scope of governmental anti-corruption efforts. The Park administration, which came to power via a military coup, rigorously pursued the identification and punishment of corrupt members of the ruling elite, irrespective of their social ranks or the proportions of their crimes, in its quest for social support and legitimacy. The crown accomplishments of the Third Republic’s relentless anti-corruption campaigns were the establishment of the Board of Audit and Inspection as the leading authority on governmental audit and inspection, and the enactment of the GEA as the statutory ground for managing government employees.
The uncompromising manner in which the Fourth Republic enforced the discipline and punishment of corrupt public officials became the most salient feature of the Bureaucracy Reform Movement. Throughout the movement that lasted from March 1975 to December 1978, governmental auditors and inspectors identified and subjected 155,336 bureaucrats in total to punishment, expelling or dismissing 17,485; enforcing wage cuts and other disciplinary actions against 31,557; issuing warnings for 99,530; and removing 6,764 from their posts. The number of government employees disciplined or punished for corruption charges increased from 2.9 percent of the total number of government employees in 1975 to 8.5 percent in 1976, and again to 10.5 percent in 1978 (Administration White Paper, 1979).
In an effort to strengthen the control and punishment of bureaucratic corruption, the Fourth Republic introduced a number of powerful policies, such as the collective responsibility policy, which held not only corrupt bureaucrats accountable for their crimes, but their superiors and supervisors as well and the policy banning bureaucrats from working in private-sector jobs (introduced in 1977), aimed at preventing inappropriate partnerships from forming between bureaucrats and interest groups. It also established a register charting the performance of government employees throughout their careers.
 
(3) Characteristics and Effects of the Park Administration’s Anti-Corruption Measures
The Third Republic, which came into being after a military coup, though determined to root out corruption at the beginning of its term, ended up taking a rather punitive and retaliatory approach to the problem, targeting as it did the corruption already committed by the old ruling elite that it had toppled. President Park’s protracted rule saw anti-corruption measures grow increasingly political in nature, and become devoid of consistency and leadership. The rapid process of economic development led bureaucrats and politicians to amass wealth in less than appropriate ways, dividing rent among themselves and exchanging capital to keep the Park administration in power. It was thus in the Third Republic that a structure of corruption became a permanent feature of the Korean government. It should also be noted that it was during this era that the forms of corruption became diversified, structured, and institutionalized as the increasingly cozy relations between politics and businesses led to corruption in various industries, including finance and construction (Jang, 1992, 218-219). The disciplinary actions against corrupt bureaucrats, based on fragmentary statutes, were interpreted not as due punishments, but as politically motivated acts of vengeance, and as such failed to reduce corruption as hoped. The development-centeredness of Korean politics and society prevented systematic and rational discourses on corruption, and rather served to perpetuate the political-industrial complex and corruption as ineradicable features of Korean society.
The Yushin government, which emerged on the platform of establishing a specifically Korean political system and order, promoted bureaucratic reforms as top-priority policy issues and requirements for social stability and order. The Yushin government’s bureaucratic reform and anti-corruption campaigns were comprehensive, sustained, and driven in nature, and concerned quite a wide range of subjects and areas. Of particular note here is that these campaigns helped the Korean government outgrow its ex-post-control approach to corruption, and adopt more systematic and proactive measures in its place. The new approach entailed improving work systems and institutions, the personnel management system, the ethics of bureaucrats, and so forth. Nevertheless, the Yushin government’s anti-corruption drive ultimately failed to reap the outcomes it hoped for, mainly because it did not consider all the human, institutional, sociocultural, and other factors involved in corruption. Having been unable to identify and eliminate the root causes of corruption, the Yushin government ended up relying mostly on the ex-post-control approach of its predecessors. The prolonged dictatorship of President Park and the heavily state-directed process of economic development also served to calcify the improper and cozy relations between the political elite and businesses.
 

 
[1] The revolutionary pledges of the May 16 military government were: (1) reinforcing the readiness posture against communists; (2) complying with the UN Charter and enhancing solidarity with freedom allies; (3) eliminating corruption and other old evils; (4) implementing prompt solutions for alleviating poverty; (5) reinforcing anti-communist forces; and (6) ensuring prompt transfer of power to a new Civilian Government.
[2] See the Ministry of Public Information, Accomplishments of the Seven Months of the Revolutionary Government, 1962.
[3] Kang Shintaek, “Bureaucracy Reform as a Change of Slogan” (presented at the Ninth National Policy Seminar), 1976: 1.
[4] See the GEA (Law 1325).

Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.