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Development Overview
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Governance

Invigoration of the preventive approach to corruption

The People’s Government (1998 to 2002) and the Participatory Government (2003 to 2007)
 
1) Approach to preventing corruption
 
(i) Approach to corruption under the People’s Government
The People’s Government marked the first instance in Korean history in which the candidate of an opposition party won the election and rose to the presidency. The inauguration of the People’s Government was highly meaningful not only because it signified a major shift in power, but also because it came at a turning point in Korean society, the time of the Foreign Exchange Crisis, a situation that both facilitated the People’s Government’s rise to power and immediately tested its competence. The People’s Government had the historic mission of solving this, the harshest of national crises since the days of the Korean War. In light of the dire circumstances, President Kim, in his inaugural address, proposed a rather circuitous approach to dealing with corruption that involved solving the Foreign Exchange Crisis and promoting democracy and economic growth simultaneously, a process that he believed would naturally lead to the elimination of corrupt practices and traditions, including the cozy relations between politics and businesses, government-controlled finance, and other causes of corruption.

This circuitous approach, however, did not mean that the People’s Government lacked determination for ending corruption. The diverse measures and campaigns it launched to fight and prevent corruption included regulatory reforms (many of which also addressed the Foreign Exchange Crisis); the enactment of new legislative frameworks for internalizing and systematizing corruption prevention; and the enhancement of anti-corruption organizations.
 
(ii) Approach to corruption under the Participatory Government
The Participatory Government approached corruption not as a separate social issue, but as a key area in a broader range of efforts for government innovation. President Roh Moohyun’s inaugural address indicated that “fairness and transparency” would occupy a central place in his administration’s roadmap for sustainable economic growth and national development. His address also stressed the need to find “structural and institutional alternatives” to the ex-post-control approach of the past, and called for greater self-reflection in the leaders of Korean society.

In order to achieve the “clean administration” promised in its roadmap for government innovation, the Participatory Government promoted “systematic countermeasures to the corruption of public service” and “the cultivation of public service ethics” as key objectives. The first objective required improving corruption-inducing institutions and regulations; developing anti-corruption measures for each area of public service; and strengthening the checks and balances among audit and inspection authorities. Government employees were now required to internalize the Code of Conduct, and all authoritarian vestiges in bureaucratic culture were aggressively eliminated. The anti-corruption objectives of the Participatory Government were very systematic and organized, with their success dependent on ensuring a system of checks and balances on all government organizations responsible for ex-post control of corruption so as not to empower any one of them unjustly. This administration also emphasized the cultivation of ethical mindsets in government employees, a strategy which revealed a desire to solve corruption at a fundamental level over and beyond merely controlling corruption-inducing institutional and structural factors.
 
2) Anti-corruption efforts
 
(i) Legal and institutional aspects of the People’s Government’s anti-corruption efforts
The People’s Government’s most significant contribution to anti-corruption activities came in the form of development and revision of the administrative systems and regulations that had long induced corrupt behavior (Lee, 2004). It actively pursued regulatory reforms, enacting the Framework Act on Regulatory Reforms and establishing the Regulation Reform Committee (RRC) in the Prime Minister’s Office, and slashed the number of regulations by half. It also placed stronger restrictions on the state’s interference in the market system, a move aimed at overcoming the Foreign Exchange Crisis. Such initiatives played a crucial role in anti-corruption efforts since they tackled the root cause of governmental corruption, i.e., governmental interference with, or involvement in, private-sector economic activities.

The People’s Government, furthermore, was the first in Korean history to approach corruption not as a matter of ex-post control, but as a situation that could be prevented through planning and policy means (Kim, 2002; Kang, 2004). The anti-corruption system that the People’s Government set out to establish involved the following features and characteristics. First, the Corruption Prevention Act (CPA) was introduced as a key piece of legislation as it mapped out the specific terms and directions of government policy on corruption, compiled all governmental rules and regulations regarding corruption, clarified the definition of corrupt behavior, and included a diverse array of new anti-corruption policy measures—a primary one being the Whistleblower Protection System—thus paving the way for the thoroughgoing anti-corruption efforts of the Kim Daejung administration. The legislation also provided the basis for a systemic and organized approach to corruption prevention, including institutional improvements and varied educational and public activities in its articles.

Second, the People’s Government set up new anti-corruption organizations under the CPA. The delay in the enactment of the legislation led the Kim administration in its early day to organize the Presidential Commission on Anti-corruption. The enactment of the CPA, however, allowed the Kim administration to establish a new anti-corruption organization, the Corruption Prevention Committee (CPC), which was granted more authority and placed under direct presidential supervision. The People’s Government thus paved the way for the systematization of far-reaching and comprehensive anti-corruption efforts, complete with its own legislation and organization (Kim, 2002).
 
(ii) Legal and institutional aspects of the Participatory Government’s anti-corruption efforts
The Participatory Government focused on reinforcing checks and balances among audit and inspection authorities, as well as on enhancing the role and authority of the CPC that came into being toward the end of the People’s Government. The Participatory Government also sought to internalize ex-post audit and inspection activities as an essential part of the bureaucracy in order to control and inhibit corruption, especially among high-ranking officials. Although the Roh Moohyun administration pushed for the creation of the High-Ranking Officials Corruption Investigation Bureau as part of the CPC, it failed to achieve this goal due to objections from the National Assembly and other governmental organizations. Undaunted by this failure, the Participatory Government strengthened its efforts for institutional improvements via the newly created Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), which focused mainly on corruption-prone tasks and areas of government service.

Unlike its predecessors, the Participatory Government attempted to deter corruption through the improvement of administrative systems and procedures that formed the basis of civil affairs and government services. This emphasis was intended to ensure transparency and fairness in services for citizens and block the possibilities of corruption at the root. The Participatory Government divided the required tasks of administrative improvements into three types, i.e., overarching, main, and individuated tasks. The “overarching tasks” entailed projects for improving the entire anti-corruption system, and included five specific goals: eliminating corruption-inducing laws and rules; enhancing administrative transparency; reinforcing the exposure and punishment of corrupt bureaucrats; enlisting greater public participation in anti-corruption efforts; and forming an anti-corruption environment. The “main tasks” involved prioritizing the improvement of chronically corruption-prone institutions, while the “individuated tasks” focused on development and implementation of the Mid- to Long-term Institutional Improvement Roadmap—a plan for conducting comprehensive surveys on corruption-prone areas in the public and private sectors.

The institutional improvements achieved based on the overarching tasks included the previewing of legislative bills prone to induce corruption through the Corruption Impact Analysis System and the enhancing of protection and rewards for whistleblowers. Greater public participation in anti-corruption efforts led to the recall of certain elected officials in 2005, and efforts for achieving an anti-corruption environment brought into existence the Code of Conduct for government employees.

The five main tasks honed efforts for improving and eliminating corruption-inducing institutions.
Thus the Participatory Government organized the KICAC, which identified chronically corruption-prone areas of public service, i.e., taxation, construction and government contracts, patrol and inspection, public corporations, and private-sector services impacting the reputation and credibility of the government, and devised solutions for institutional improvements accordingly.
The Participatory Government also required the KICAC, its central anti-corruption organization, to conduct assessments of various factors of corruption. Such assessments were part of efforts to expand the existing system and introduce new systems for the survey and evaluation of corruption-vulnerable areas and the factors that most often lead to corruption. Major assessments required by the Participatory Government in this regard included the Integrity Survey, the Corruption Prevention Plan Assessment, the Corruption Impact Analysis System, the Policy Transparency Survey, and others. The Integrity Survey, which actually began in the People’s Government in 2001, saw its scope significantly widened under the Participatory Government so that more information could be obtained on the trends or patterns of corruption affecting the bureaucracy. The Participatory Government also introduced the Corruption Impact Analysis System to ensure the preview and elimination of corruption-inducing bills. The Policy Transparency Survey, targeting high-ranking officials in various ministries and departments, was also employed not only to gather facts on corruption, but also to prevent corruption from arising in the first place.
 
(iii) Efforts to control corruption
The People’s Government and the Participatory Government focused comparatively more on preventing corruption than on controlling it through audit and inspection in its aftermath as their predecessors had done. Apart from the establishment of new anti-corruption legislation and organizations, the audit- and inspection-related aspects of anti-corruption were given relatively less attention. Although the Participatory Government sought to enhance the effect and rigor of ex-post audits and inspections on politicians, Cabinet ministers and vice-ministers, heads of local government organizations, and other high-ranking officials by creating a special investigation bureau as part of the KICAC, staunch opposition from prosecutors and politicians thwarted its plan.
 
3) Evaluation
 
(i) People’s Government
The People’s Government, born amid one of the gravest national crises in Korea’s history, was compelled to prioritize the resolution of the financial crisis as a first and foremost goal from its outset. The focus of the People’s Government throughout its term, then, was on restructuring and revitalizing the national economy. The revitalization of the market economy required the investment of greater public funds, on the one hand, and regulatory reforms, on the other. The People’s Government also developed a far-reaching and comprehensive anti-corruption plan as part of its economic revitalization program so as to end the cozy relations between politics and businesses, and thus eliminate a root cause of the Foreign Exchange Crisis. The enactment of the CPA and the creation of the CPC marked the peak of the anti-corruption efforts waged by the People’s Government.

The crowning achievement of the People’s Government can be found in its ambitious regulatory reforms aimed at revamping the national economy. These reforms, focused on minimizing state interference in the market economy, also consequently reduced or eliminated the deepest causes of corruption in Korean society (Park, 2001). In addition to regulatory reforms, the People’s Government also conducted in-depth assessments of corruption among high-ranking officials from multiple perspectives, particularly via the Office for Government Coordination and the Office of Investigation Review, and successfully developed and implemented an overarching governmental plan for preventing corruption. This treatment of bureaucratic corruption as a key issue in the national policy agenda culminated in the enactment of the CPA, and the creation of the CPC (later the KICAC) as an independent authority on anti-corruption policymaking and enforcement. The CPC’s activities, supported by the CPA, distinguished the People’s Government from its predecessors since they were aimed at addressing and tackling corruption-inducing factors in a proactive manner through the pursuance of institutional improvements and educational and propagandistic activities—approaches in sharp contrast with the ex-post-control methods of earlier governments. Nevertheless, the attempt to revitalize the economy by injecting massive amounts of public funds fuelled diverse forms of corruption in the management process, some of which evolved into major political scandals. Toward its end, the People’s Government suffered a serious crisis of public confidence and its anti-corruption efforts were deeply questioned when two of President Kim Daejung’s sons were arrested for their involvement in financial scams.[1]
 
(ii) Participatory Government
The Participatory Government approached corruption as a main pillar on its roadmap for government innovation. The anti-corruption policies and activities it thus launched focused primarily on identifying and improving systemic and institutional factors of corruption in advance. Such an approach may have been less dramatic than the punitive, ex-post-control approach of past governments, but it was fundamentally more effective in solving problems of corruption at their core.

This preventive approach enabled the Participatory Government to solve a number of problems surrounding corruption. In particular, the improvement of corruption-inducing institutions and the enhanced effectiveness and fairness of various citizen-oriented services, based on a wide range of internal evaluations, significantly improved the quality of administrative and public services.
But the Participatory Government’s anti-corruption campaign was not without its problems. First, it did not make significant improvements to ex-post anti-corruption activities in that it failed to garner support for the establishment of a special body for investigation into the corruption of high-ranking public officials and thus failed to employ audits and inspections as effective anti-corruption instruments. Second, although the Participatory Government introduced a number of institutional improvements and internal evaluation systems for ridding corruption-inducing factors, the management and long-term support of these initiatives has not been as systematic or effective as hoped.
 
 
[1] Kang Seongnam, “Five Major Scandals: Diagnoses and Solutions,” presented at the Second Transparency Forum, 2002.

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