Civilian Government (1993 to 1997)
1) Approach to corruption
The Kim Youngsam administration prided itself on being the first “Civilian Government,” i.e., a government led by a non-military (civilian) president elected by popular vote. Anti-corruption became the first and foremost issue on the new government’s agenda as it set out to establish a new political order in the aftermath of decades-long military rule. Corruption in public service was a serious issue for the Civilian Government, which divided such corruption into two types: moral decline and illegalities. “Moral decline” was defined as complacency, lack of friendliness, and willing submission to unethical and unfair orders from above; while “illegalities” included legally punishable acts of corruption, such as embezzlement and misappropriation, offering monetary gifts to superiors, and accepting bribes (CPCC, 1997: 5). The Civilian Government, in other words, possessed quite a broad understanding of corruption, viewing it as encompassing not only acts prohibited by law but also the less-than-ideal behavior and attitudes of government employees. The audit and inspection campaign of the Civilian Government thus intended to leave no stone unturned, including in its scope not only bureaucrats, but also individuals close to President Kim and even former presidents. Members of the administration, government-affiliated bodies, and the military, and even high-profile figures in politics and the economy, were not exempt either.
Though the Civilian Government identified the lack of morality in government employees and the backward cast of people’s minds as root causes of corruption, adapting the views of its predecessors, it nonetheless differentiated itself by introducing the most systematic and organized audit and inspection processes seen in Korea up to that point. In particular, the Civilian Government pointed to the cozy relations between politics and businesses, the lack of transparency in the bureaucracy, and defects in various regulations and administrative procedures as the fundamental causes of corruption in Korea. It thus launched a comprehensive anti-corruption campaign encompassing all areas of society and government.
2) Anti-corruption efforts
(i) Organizational aspect
The Civilian Government amended the BAI Act to address the shortcomings of the accounting-centered audit and inspection command system and to create a new position, i.e., the Deputy Executive Director of Duty Inspection. The amended legislation also detailed procedures for the audit and inspection of outsourced government projects and of government-endowed institutions and organizations, murky areas in the first version of the Act. In addition, the revised Act provided for the establishment of the Audit and Inspection Training Institute to improve the competency and qualifications of auditors and inspectors working at central administrative agencies, local government organizations, and government-invested organizations. It also exempted organizations with exemplary autonomous audit and inspection records from the audit and inspection requirement, and introduced the audit and inspection commissioning system to enable the heads of central agencies, local government organizations, and government-invested organizations to conduct and report on the auditing and inspection of affiliated institutions (Public Information Bureau, 1997, 28).
The Civilian Government established the Corruption Prevention and Countermeasures Committee (CPCC) within the BAI on April 9, 1993. The CPCC gathered the opinions of experts from diverse fields, reflecting these in its proposals and recommendations to the BAI (CPCC, 1994, 71). Specifically, the CPCC launched fact-finding missions, researched and developed plans for improving legislation and identifying corruption-prone institutions, and handled education and public relations for consciousness reform (CPCC, 1994, 9-10). It also revised the Audit and Inspection Guideline (July 24, 1995) to improve the efficiency of the autonomous audits and inspections conducted by various governmental entities and the Audit and Inspection Ministerial Council. In particular, the revised guideline delineated a new process for reporting on audit and inspection plans and included new terms for coordinating inter-ministerial and departmental exchange on social discipline, while clarifying conditions for supporting the audit and inspection of local government organizations.
The Civilian Government also installed the Special Corruption Investigation Bureau in the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, which launched uncompromising investigations into chronically corruption-prone areas of public service, such as taxation and healthcare. These investigations targeted 16,934 individuals in total, and ended in the arrest of 7,511 (Public Information Bureau, 1997, 24). The Committee for Administration Reform (CAR) was then established to investigate the corruption-prone institutions and tasks of each ministry or department with respect to licensing and authorization work (Public Information Bureau, 1997, 28), followed by the Council for the Establishment of National Discipline (CEND) which was presided by the President himself. Another noteworthy aspect of the Civilian Government’s anti-corruption drive was that it actively encouraged and enlisted nongovernmental organizations’ participation. The Coalition of Citizens Economic Justice (CCEJ), the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy (PSPD), the People’s Solidarity for Expulsion of Corruption and Irrationalities (PSECI), the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) of Korea, the People’s Solidarity for Administrative Reformation (PSAR), and other such organizations flourished in Korean civil society at this time.
The CCEJ, founded in 1993, sought to expel all forms of economic corruption and injustice from Korean society through launching public awareness campaigns, investigating complaints, and providing counseling services. The Coalition went on to create a number of reporting centers, including those for reporting legal practice brokers, budget wastes, tax frauds, and the like, and also organized various public forums and civilian ombudsmen groups. The PSPD, established in October 1994 under the slogan, “For a Society without Corruption or Privileged Quarters,” launched the Making a Clean Society Headquarters in 1996. It also lobbied for the enactment of the Framework Anti-Corruption Act and other institutional improvements, organized support for whistleblowers, and formed a citizens’ group for monitoring corruption and overseeing the recall of illegally amassed wealth. Moreover, the PSPD set up the Citizens Monitoring Bureau, equipped with the People’s Watch over Judiciary Affairs Center and the People’s Watch over Legislative Affairs Center, in an effort to systematize the public’s check on governmental activities. The PSECI was established in December 1995 to expose corruption, restore morality, raise public awareness, protect the national spirit and identity, and realize a just society. The organization particularly focused on restoring the rights of individual victims of biased police or prosecutorial investigations, unfair court decisions, unethical lawyers, and unfair organizations/corporations/collective entities. The PSECI also played an important role in exposing corruption in private tutorial schools and in monitoring judicial reforms. The YMCA of Korea organized the Citizens Arbitration Office to help protect citizens’ rights and interests. The Office was created to hear reports on various forms of corruption, provide assistance for protecting workers’ rights, receive consumer complaints regarding products, protect the tenants of rented housing, and provide legal counseling. Voluntary associations, such as the Citizens’ Movement Council for a Just Society, continued to spring up throughout the 1990s. The PSAR, for instance, founded in 1997 to improve operation of the Korean government, continues to hear reports from citizens in such areas as the unsatisfactory performances or attitudes of government employees, unfair fees and charges, preferential treatments, excessive administrative regulations, etc. In essence, the Civilian Government era saw the multiplication and thriving of citizens’ own anti-corruption efforts.
(ii) Legal and institutional aspects
The Civilian Government instituted a number of groundbreaking legislative and institutional reforms to fight corruption. It not only enforced, with enhanced rigor, the obligation of government employees to disclose and report their wealth using the Real-Name Financial Transaction System, but also amended the PSEA, and enacted the Information Disclosure Act, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Special Act on the Seizure of Government Employee Criminals’ Wealth. As part of legislative anti-corruption reforms, the Integrated Election Act and the Political Fund Act were also passed and enforced to prevent corruption among politicians. Under the Civilian Government, the scope of properties and wealth that government employees were obligated to disclose and report was broadened. The Special Act on the Seizure of Government Employee Criminals’ Wealth concerned not only the wealth that government employees amassed illegally, but also all derivative wealth as well as losses to the National Treasury caused by government accountants and related parties. The enactment and amendment of anti-corruption laws formed the basis of the legislative anti-corruption reform of the Civilian Government.
The Civilian Government also saw the elimination of authoritarianism, opportunism, and their vestiges from bureaucratic institutions and practices. The CAR, organized on April 20, 1993, and charged with leading institutional improvements, pursued administrative deregulation and revisions to irrational laws and procedures as top-priority issues in need of urgent solving. Efforts toward these ends culminated in the Fundamental Act on Administrative Regulation, which became the legislative framework for deregulation. The Act clarified and specified the terms of administrative regulation already delineated in the Fundamental Act on Administrative Regulation and Civil Affairs, and also provided for the establishment of a powerful regulatory reform agency, analyses of regulatory impact, a sunset clause, and regulation reviews (Hong, 1997, 12).
Moreover, the Civilian Government launched serious investigations into and pursued prosecutions of former presidents and other related parties, showing the strength of its commitment to identifying and bringing wrongdoers to justice. The average number of government employees disciplined or punished each year on corruption charges, from 1993 to 1997, was over 5,500, a significant rise from the 4,000 yearly average during the Sixth Republic. The level of severity applied to the punishment of high-ranking officials also increased, with 36 such officials punished in 1993 alone, compared to only three in 1991 and two in 1992 (Ministry of Government Administration Annals, 1997, 192).
The Civilian Government not only strengthened the audit, inspection, and punishment of corruption, but also adopted emotional strategies aimed at boosting the morale and dedication of government employees to stop corruption before it could begin. Specifically, the Kim administration introduced a new set of criteria for evaluating government employee performance that considered the achievement of targets, and based promotions on the results of both this evaluation and the existing promotion examination. Mid-level managers were given greater authority over policy planning, while the number of team or section heads was increased at central ministries, departments, and affiliated institutions as a way to solve the personnel congestion problem. The seniority-based promotion system was also expanded in scope. In addition, the working Saturday system was introduced (June 1995) and applied to all ministries, departments, and select local government organizations, and the management-by-hour working system was also adopted to improve productivity and the strictness of duty management (Public Information Bureau, 1997(b), 29). The Kim administration also launched the Campaign for Straightening Historical Records, a new system of local government and administration, and a series of other initiatives for devolving the powers of the central government to local authorities. All in all, the central focus of the public service reform drive was on enhancing internal control of the bureaucracy.
The Civilian Government promised to “create a new Korea” and staked the fate of that promise on fighting and eliminating corruption. Audits and inspections were conducted at an unprecedented level of rigor and severity, and punishments meted out accordingly. The first noteworthy outcome of the Civilian Government’s anti-corruption drive was the increased autonomy, stature, and authority of the BAI. The Civilian Government’s audit and inspection campaign also helped to reform the state of personnel management in the military and keep high-ranking officials in check. In addition to strengthening the investigation and punishment of corrupt government employees, the Civilian Government also distinguished itself from its predecessors by pursuing legislative and institutional reforms aimed at preventing corruption, reforms which included expanding and reinforcing the obligation of wealth disclosure among government employees and use of the Real-Name Financial Transaction System, and amending the PSEA and enacting the Information Disclosure Act and the Administrative Procedure Act. These efforts for preventing corruption also naturally encouraged and multiplied nongovernmental organizations’ commitment to fighting corruption in civil society.
In the end, however, the Civilian Government still failed to achieve an overarching, comprehensive anti-corruption program, with most of its anti-corruption efforts relying on the strong determination of President Kim. In other words, anti-corruption in the Korean government was still a matter of presidential commitment, and the mode in which governmental anti-corruption efforts were decided, carried out, and directed remained authoritarian. Governmental anti-corruption campaigns were coercive and top-down for the most part during this period, and eventually lost their impetus when the President’s son was involved in the biggest corruption scandal of the Kim administration, and the Foreign Exchange Crisis hit Korea. Moreover, such leader-centered, audit-and-inspection-based anti-corruption efforts could not evade charges of being politically motivated, and as such failed to prove to the public their necessity. Even so the Civilian Government should be recognized for the comprehensive scope of its reforms which were aimed at breaking the circle of corruption upheld by the uncomfortably close relationship between politicians and corporations, and for its success in improving anti-corruption institutions and systems, including the audit and inspection process. The Civilian Government also deserves credit for maintaining a consistent and tenacious approach to audit and inspection and institutional improvement throughout most of its term.
Source: Korea Institute of Public Administration. 2008. Korean Public Administration, 1948-2008, Edited by Korea Institute of Public Administration. Pajubookcity: Bobmunsa.