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No sound economic development without fighting corruption

South Korea’s new government must face the task

The proposed dismantling of Korea’s only independent national anti-corruption agency by the incoming administration is of grave concern to Transparency International (TI) and Transparency International Korea (South).

The agency in question, the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC), is slated to be merged with two other agencies, the Ombudsman of Korea and the Administrative Appeals Commission to form the new Commission for People's Rights and Interests. This is part of a “New Age of Pragmatism” and the consolidated agencies would answer to the Prime Minister’s office. South Korea’s new President, Lee Myung-bak, took office on Monday 25 February.

“In his attempt to boost economic growth and fulfill his promise to make South Korea one of the world's top seven economies, it is highly disappointing that the President’s first step is to weaken the country’s anti-corruption agency. An impartial watchdog is essential for a clean business environment”, said Geo-Sung Kim, Chairperson at TI-Korea and a board member of TI.

Reducing corruption means increasing efficiency and to do that, the new government should:

  • Work out a comprehensive strategy to address corruption, especially corruption in the private sector and overseas bribery; taking necessary measures to strengthen the national anti-corruption agency and to ensure its independence
  • Encourage participation from civil society in the fight against corruption and in monitoring the implementation of international anti-corruption instruments, like the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) once it is ratified by South Korea and of the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which it has already ratified

The decision to consolidate the agencies came on 4 February, through the Preparing Commission of the New Government. Since then, TI Korea rallied 311 NGOs nationwide and has been taking public actions to halt the dismantling of KICAC.

South Korea is set to ratify the UNCAC, yet as it took a step in that direction by passing a bill on asset recovery, on the same day, Parliament also approved a bill to close KICAC. The dismantling of KICAC will further undermine and erode its independence and clearly runs counter to the provisions of the UNCAC, by shifting the KICAC from President’s Office to that of the Prime Minister’s.

“The relegation of KICAC means putting the cart before the horse and is creating an adverse effect on the drive against corruption in the country which has gained momentum over the past 10 years”, said Liao Ran, Senior Programme Coodinator for South and East Asia at TI.

Geared by international trends and public demand, especially through participation and initiation from civil society, South Korea has introduced rules and regulations, and the general public is increasingly becoming aware of the importance of good governance, integrity and anti-corruption. With promotion from civil society, the Anti-Corruption Law was enacted in 2001 and KICAC was upgraded from a presidential advisory board to a national-level anti-corruption agency in 2002.

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Transparency International is the civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.


For any press enquiries please contact

Berlin:
Gypsy Guillén Kaiser
T: +49 30 343820662
E: ggkaiser@transparency.org

Korea (South):
Geo-Sung Kim, Chairperson, Transparency International - Korea
Board Member, Transparency International
T: +82-2-739-2260, Mob. +82-19-292-9292
E: gs@ti.or.kr

Sung-Goo Kang, Secretary General, Transparency International - Korea
T: +82-2-717-6211
Mob. +82-11-9865-2666
E: sgk@ti.or.kr