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Governance

Rise in efforts for preventing corruption

Fifth and Sixth Republics: Taking a Political Approach to Corruption
 
(1) The New Military Regime’s Approach to Corruption
The Fifth Republic was born with a new group of military leaders that came to power in the tumultuous aftermath of President Park’s assassination on October 26, 1979. The new military regime, led by Chun Doohwan, ostensibly campaigned for the realization of a just society through exposure and punishment of corruption. In his inaugural address, Chun called corruption “a legacy of the past,” and attributed it mainly to contradictions borne out of rapid economic development, the disappearance of morality in the bureaucracy, and the backward cast of people’s minds. The new government, in other words, saw the decline of public service ethics and values as a byproduct of economic growth, and launched a powerful social purification campaign that featured comprehensive and rigorous audits and inspections. The Chun administration attempted a more scientific and sophisticated approach than its predecessor to the elimination of corruption, even going so far as to develop a public service diagnosis system comprised of experts and scholars.
The Chun administration grouped various forms of bureaucratic corruption into four types: bribery, pursuit of privileges, complacency, and management failures. Its anti-corruption efforts involved assigning different tactics and solutions to these four types. The Chun administration also divided the incidents of corruption in public service between those pertaining to politics and those to administration, and developed a systematic roadmap for administrative reforms and institutional improvements. It also pursued the enforcement of disciplinary action against corrupt officials as the foremost goal of its social purification campaign. This new government, then, though it considered systemic and institutional elements as well as individual-oriented, behavioral elements in crafting anti-corruption measures, on the whole placed more emphasis on reforming the mindsets of public officials than on institutional reforms. Rather than treating anti-corruption as an issue on a long-term reform agenda, the Chun administration sought to produce visible outcomes in the short run.
Although the Sixth Republic came into being after a democratic election, the President and other members of the ruling elite inherited much from the Fifth Republic, and failed to rid their government of the features and characteristics of the earlier military governments. In an effort to overcome this and secure legitimacy in the public’s opinion, the Roh Taewoo administration launched rigorous anti-corruption efforts in various areas. The Sixth Republic viewed corruption as an inevitable product of the transition from an authoritarian society to a democratic one, pointing a finger, like previous Republics, at individual public officials and government employees who had failed to act legally and ethically as this transition took place.

Accordingly, the Roh administration sought to instill and reinforce ethics and principles in government employees as the main goal of its anti-corruption campaigns. The Roh administration proposed at its outset to prevent corruption by introducing democratic and autonomous auditing and inspection, and carried out new efforts to reinforce ethics and a sense of responsibility in government employees while increasing the severity of punishments for bribery, embezzlement and misappropriation, complacency, and management failures. In audits and inspections, the Roh administration stressed democracy, responsibility, prevention, and assistance as the key values or goals of such processes, thereby replacing former ex-post-control anti-corruption efforts with more proactive and morale-boosting strategies. In particular, the Roh administration sought to eliminate institutional factors leading to corruption in advance rather than treating the corrupt practices and behavior of government officials with ex-post discipline and control. Moreover, the Roh administration used audits and inspections as a means of encouraging and protecting competent, hardworking government employees by providing them with better conditions in which to perform their duties. This administration thus distinguished itself from its predecessors by approaching corruption in public service at a more preventive and fundamental level.
 
(2) New Military Regime’s Anti-Corruption Efforts
The new military regime that rose to power in the aftermath of President Park Chunghee’s assassination in 1979 and launched the Fifth Republic began its term by waging a number of severe campaigns against corrupt public officials—expropriating the wealth they had amassed illegally and tackling other forms of corruption. The new government’s zeal for social purification and anti-corruption was strong and unbridled, and mostly decided and carried out by a new provisional body, the Standing Committee for Emergency National Security Measures (SCENSM), in rather questionable ways. For example, properties were seized and recalled to the National Treasury without the due processes of law. Such handling of corrupt individuals in manners not restricted by existing laws or systems betrayed the anxiety with which the new military regime sought to legitimize itself in public opinion. However, such approaches did not yield rational and trustworthy results; rather, they served as additional means to uphold the ruling elite’s authoritarianism and repression, and in this way, actually endorsed the corruption they were supposed to prevent. 
 
1) Organizational measures
The anti-corruption organizations of the Chun administration included, in addition to the SCENSM, the Social Purification Committee (SPC) and the Next Korea Foundation (NKF). Prior to the organization of the new Civilian Government of the Fifth Republic, the leaders of the military coup formed the SCENSM and through it waged anti-corruption campaigns. After the new government formally came into being, the SPC led all governmental anti-corruption efforts. The main activities of the SCENSM involved punishing corrupt officials and individuals who had amassed wealth illegally; purifying the consciousness of government employees; rounding up gangsters, blackmailers, those who had committed fraud, smugglers, and other such types of criminals; banning private tutoring and “normalizing” education; and simplifying public service procedures (SPC, 1988, 15-18).

The SPC, which officially began its operations on October 28, 1980, was at first intended as a provisional body to replace the functions of the SCENSM. Its main tasks included: (1) researching and planning social purification programs; (2) coordinating and controlling administrative bodies, public organizations, and other affiliated institutions created under either presidential or prime ministerial decrees to promote social purification; (3) handling education and public relations on social purification; and (5) handling other matters of social purification upon orders from above. In the meantime, the NKF was founded and oversaw the development and operation of the Public Service Diagnosis System (PSDS). The PSDS was used to carry out periodical analyses on the integrity of government employees, with the data derived put toward identifying the improvements necessary for bureaucratic purification. This system was launched in response to what the Chun administration identified as the main reason its predecessors’ anti-corruption efforts had failed: lack of comprehensive research and analyses on the different ways corruption affects the varied ministries, departments, and organizations of the government. The NKF was thus put in charge of conducting “social purity surveys” and measuring the integrity of government employees at regular intervals (SPC, 1988, 150).

The Roh administration, on the other hand, stressed democratic and autonomous auditing and inspection as the key instrument of anti-corruption reforms, and sought to remove traces of authoritarianism from the audit and inspection system. The anti-corruption organizations created during this era included the Office of Administrative Coordination 4, which was newly added to the Prime Minister’s Office and replaced the Office of the Secretary to the President for Audit and Inspection and the SPC of the Fifth Republic. The Roh administration also adopted the Audit and Inspection Ministerial Council and the Auditors Council, abolishing the Chun administration’s system of pre-deliberations on the nomination and selection of high-ranking officials and board members of government-invested organizations. The Ministerial Council was also adopted to boost the democratic nature of audit and inspection.

In addition, the Roh administration created the Advisory Group for Audit and Inspection Policies as part of the Prime Minister’s Office to hear and gather public opinion on the government’s audit and inspection policies. In its first two years, the Roh administration promoted the development of infrastructure for accountable auditing and inspection by the Cabinet as the key instrument for allowing heads of governmental organizations to conduct responsible audit and inspections autonomously. Increasing political and social controversies, however, led the administration to reinforce its own audit and inspection activities in 1990, thus signaling a return to the authoritarian audit and inspection system of the past. In its later years, the Roh administration thus created multiple provisional audit and inspection bodies, such as special mission audit and inspection teams, inspection mobilization teams, joint special inspection teams, the Special Investigation Department, and the like (Public Information Bureau, 1992).
 
2) Legal and institutional measures
Enforcement of discipline, improvement of institutions, and reform of consciousness were the three major slogans and objectives of the Fifth Republic’s anti-corruption efforts. Enforcement of discipline referred to mobilizing the external, coercive power of the state to punish and deter various forms of social corruption and illegalities on the surface. Improvement of institutions entailed making changes to culture, institutions, and systems in general to eliminate the social and cultural roots of corruption. Reform of consciousness involved educational and edifying activities aimed at correcting people’s values (SPC, 1988, 62-63). The Fifth Republic designated a broader scope of administrative reforms and institutional improvements than its predecessors. The Chun administration set out on an ambitious campaign for downsizing governmental organizations and promoted administrative reforms for removing obstacles to institutional growth.

The Chun administration also newly appointed Action Officers for the Purification Movement at the ministries of home affairs, culture & education, and commerce & industry, as well as in the Seoul City administration. Municipalities and provinces were also required to hire social instructors to support the purification activities of nongovernmental organizations. The Fifth Republic systematized educational programs for reinforcing ethics and responsibility in government employees, and also made many more efforts than its predecessors to introduce new and better legislative and institutional means for anti-corruption efforts. Examples include the Charter for the Ethics of Government Employees, the Public Service Ethics Act (PSEA), the Favoritism Denouncement Movement, the Public Integrity Honor Awards, and the Real-name Financial Transaction Policy. In particular, the PSEA, promulgated in December 1981, represented a significant improvement in governmental anti-corruption efforts, introducing such new and important changes as requiring government employees to report and register their private properties, as well as any gifts they had received; and placing restrictions on the employment of retired government employees.

The Roh administration of the Sixth Republic launched the New Order and New Life Movement in 1990, inheriting the rigor and ambition of its predecessor’s anti-corruption campaigns. The “New Order” here referred to a new safe and orderly society devoid of threats of illegality, disorder, and crime; while “New Life” represented the ideal of a healthy and moral society free of all forms of social pathologies and malaise. The campaign introduced a new policy for reducing corruption in public service, which became the centerpiece of the Roh administration’s anti-corruption efforts (O, 1995, 299-300).[1] Nevertheless, the campaign carried only limited effects because it lacked systematic plans, a statutory basis, and institutional grounds, and was conducted in an impromptu manner according to the President’s instructions and requests.

The Roh administration’s focus was more on proactively improving institutions and reducing factors of corruptive behavior than on enforcing discipline against corrupt government employees. Accordingly, the Roh administration identified taxation, transportation, construction, fire safety, sanitation, and the natural environment as the six areas of public service most vulnerable to corruption, and launched a series of measures to improve the involved institutions and inhibit corruption-inducing factors. This administration also diversified the scope of its anti-corruption activities to include not only warning and punishment, but also measures for boosting the morale and stability of the bureaucracy. For instance, the it made changes to the additional-points system by revising the performance evaluation criteria for government employees on June 29, 1991, and expanded the scope of the voluntary retirement system as well as the prescheduled promotion system (up to Grades 6 and 7). Joint banquets, overseas exchange programs, trips to industrial facilities and frontline troops, and visits to other administrative bodies were also provided, encouraged, and systematized to boost the morale and job-related capabilities of government employees.
 
3) Controlling corruptive behavior
The military and former-military leaders of the Fifth Republic, who rose to power via a military coup, sought to secure a degree of legitimacy in public opinion by enforcing punitive anti-corruption measures of an unprecedented scale and rigor. The new military government under the Chun administration extended the scope of governmental anti-corruption efforts to society at large in launching the so-called “Social Purification Movement.” Although the Chun administration’s campaign involved diverse anti-corruption measures, including preventive measures for institutions, it is still mainly remembered for its zeal in enforcing audits and inspections. The Blue House’s deep involvement in these activities turned audit and inspection into an instrument serving the new military government’s political ends rather than the goal of anti-corruption per se. In other words, the superficial pursuit of just governance and the elimination of corruption failed to work and ended up desensitizing society to corruption due to the corruption of the ruling elite itself.[2] The harsh and repressive measures employed in the name of anti-corruption served to make various forms of corruption go underground and increased the side effects of corrective measures applied in public service. For instance, 1,322 of the government employees who were laid off or dismissed due to corruption charges in the Fifth Republic were hired back in their original positions in public service in the Sixth Republic, and a total compensation of KRW 105.3 billion was paid out to 6,113 dismissed government employees (Office of the Secretary to the Prime Minister for Administrative Coordination, 1993, 32).

The inconsistent levels of zeal and rigor applied to the exposure and punishment of corrupt government employees were evident in both the Fifth and Sixth Republics, as such actions were often dictated by political or social needs. According to a government report, the number of corrupt government employees exposed and/or punished between 1988 and 1991 was 153,035 in total, but fluctuated severely from year to year, i.e., 25,776 in 1988; 36,561 in 1989; 48,374 in 1990; and 42,213 in 1991 (Public Information Bureau, 1992).
 
(3) Characteristics and Outcomes of the New Military Regime’s Anti-Corruption Efforts
The Fifth and Sixth Republics, led by military or former-military leaders who rose to power in the aftermath of a presidential assassination, waged strong anti-corruption campaigns centered on audits and inspections of wrongdoing to quell the old ruling elite and secure legitimacy. Though their zealous efforts helped subdue rampant corruption initially, in the end they rather cemented corruption as an integral feature of the new ruling elite and desensitized the public to the rhetoric and cause of fighting corruption.

The audit- and inspection-centered anti-corruption efforts of the Chun and Roh administrations were characterized as follows.

First, anti-corruption measures were employed for political ends, particularly for toppling the existing ruling class and replacing it with a new political order and elite. To this end, the wealth and properties of the old elite were confiscated and seized in the name of eliminating corruption.
Second, the scope of anti-corruption efforts was not limited to acts and practices legally defined as corrupt, but extended to society at large under the umbrella of “social purification.” Anti-corruption, in other words, took on a public and educational nature, as the legitimacy-thirsty military regime waged ethical and moral campaigns.
Third, most auditing and inspections were carried out not by existing authorities according to established laws or procedures, but at the personal request of the President and his inner circle, for political ends.
 

 
[1] The specific aims of the anti-corruption campaign in the bureaucracy were as follows: (1) reinforcing autonomous auditing and inspection during “corruption-vulnerable” periods and strictly enforcing rewards and discipline; (2) reinforcing educational programs, including special, workplace, departmental communication, and other such programs, for inspiring commitment to public service; (3) exposing structural and conventional corruption and eliminating the root causes; (4) conducting routine auditing of corruption-prone tasks and holding the heads of corruption-prone organizations jointly responsible for the acts of corruption committed by their subordinates; (5) reinforcing the activities of the Special Corruption Investigation Department and the Special Public Audit Team of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office; and (6) identifying and awarding exemplary government employees.
[2] The Chun administration went so far as declaring each week as the time for fighting and eliminating certain factors of corruption in an effort to maintain repressive control over the people. Such actions, however, rather fatigued and desensitized people to anti-corruption efforts.

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