I am powerfully ambivalent about Korea’s President Lee Myeong-bak. I don’t care for and don’t trust his giant schemes for improving Korea’s waterways. The Canal plan was ludicrous. On the other hand, he is the man I want in charge around here when it comes to dealing with North Korea. I think the Sunshine Policy of the late Kim Dae-jung has been shown to be a failure and Roh Mu-hyon was not the right man to face off against the North Koreans.
In an recent Joongang article, Lee’s problems with corruption are discussed. I am again torn. without once claiming that Lee had ever been personally involved in bribes while in the construction field, I have to imagine he saw them and saw how influence could be bought. At his level of leadership, he must understand how corruption works from the other side in contract discussions.
From the article:
Lee sternly warned members of his government to maintain their integrity and transparency, calling it an important goal of his administration. “The crisis was prompted by the so-called confidants who have failed to separate their personal lives from their lives as public servants,” Lee was quoted as saying. “Public servants must work with a new determination, and the people working in the cabinet, Blue House and near the president must remember this.”
Lee also ordered the Ministry of Justice to investigate the corruption allegations of his aides quickly and thoroughly.
“Cases against my relatives and aides must be investigated more sternly,” Lee said. “That will allow us to achieve the goal of building a transparent administration and an advanced country.”
I hope he means this and follows through.
Aides, relatives and top public servants will be the objects of special surveillance to detect corruption, Yim said, adding that top officials have agreed to work toward “self-purification.”
“Until now, investigations only took place when allegations were raised at the National Assembly or by the media,” Yim said. “But from now on, we will thoroughly look into rumors and suspicions. We also want to spot accusations with malicious intent.”
This sounds good but feels very much like the way Muslims and, well, brown people in the US are “the objects of special surveillance” and dragged off of airplanes due to “rumors and suspicions”.
I would like to see other focuses for such investigations. If Korea wants to show the world it is working on reducing corruption, chaebol leaders should not be so quickly released and pardoned. They may indeed deserve to be “the object of special surveillance.”
I was told by my adult students that during their occupation by Japan, breaking the law was a form of resistance and patriotism. I feel that even though the leadership is now domestic, the tradition continues. As the son, grandson and husband of police officers, I do acknowledge that the police need to be themselves watched. Here in Korea, they also need and deserve more respect. I don’t know, but I suspect a broken window policy here might help. Show that people will be charged for minor violations (the metaphorical breaking of windows or more concretely of traffic violations) and they may gain more respect for the rest of the legal system. People would have trouble feeling less.