The head of the state’s anti-corruption watchdog explained its continual efforts to battle corruption to foreign corporation representatives here, introducing the year’s new policies, in Seoul on Thursday.
Kim Young-ran, chairperson of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, welcomed the chiefs from global corporations including Patrick Gaines, president of Boeing Korea, Josef Meilinger, president of Siemens Korea, and Tsutomu Awaya, president of Mitsubishi Corporation Korea.
Kim kicked off the event with a straight-to-the-point approach, acknowledging that Korea’s rapid development has been victimized by those with dishonest practices.
“In the process of such development, however, some wrongful practices and unreasonable systems have been witnessed, undermining further development of Korea to become a matured and advanced nation,” said Kim.
But Kim has made it clear, since taking the helm of the government agency, that the ACRC is ready to address the remaining issues of corruption.
“The Korean government has made great efforts to prevent corruption and improve transparency and fairness of the whole society, recognizing that ‘anti-corruption and integrity is an essential element of national competitiveness,’” said Kim.
Kim said that the ACRC recognized that change needed to come from within and have set up reforms within the administration, including construction, state-run companies and government subsidies, seen as corruption-prone areas, according to the ACRC.
“The government enacted ‘the code of conduct for public officials’in 2003 and has implemented ‘the code of conduct for local council members’ from this year to increase effectiveness,” said the former Supreme Court justice.
ACRC Assistant Chairman Chae Hyoung-kyu said that the “Code of Conduct for Local Council Members” includes 15 ethical standards that members must abide by and detailed descriptions of other administrative procedures. The code was enacted late last year, and implemented February of this year.
“The ACRC also recommends improvement and revision of laws and regulations to eliminate corruption-prone elements from them, in order to root out structural links that cause corruption in the public society,” said Kim.
According to Chae, the government agency has been seeking constant governmental change throughout 2010.
“The ACRC conducted the Corruption Impact Assessment on 1,269 enacted or amended bills and recommended improvement for 403 corruption-causing factors in 182 laws and regulations to relevant organizations,” said Chae.
|Kim Young-ran (front left), chairperson of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, is joined by international corporation chiefs at a meeting on its anti-corruption efforts in Seoul on Thursday. (Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald)|
Recently, on recommendation from the ACRC, the National Assembly passed the “Act on the protection of public interest whistleblowers,” in other efforts to promote a transparent society through active participation, according to Kim. The act safeguards those who report violations in public health, safety, environment and consumer interest areas.
But the ACRC efforts were not without shortcomings, as apparent in some corruption perceptions indexes, Kim said they are now reaching out to the foreign corporations to help battle these issues together.
In the 2010 corruption perceptions index by Transparency International, among the 178 countries in the survey, Korea is ranked 39th, while in another index of 16 Asian countries Korea is ranked ninth.
Although the ACRC has been working closely with foreign companies before and even solving certain difficulties, the chief is seeking to optimize their efforts by visiting foreign organizations here and providing customized services to give more practical help.
According to Chae, who elaborated on the agency’s policies for 2011, they are looking to increase the quality of public service through several means.
The ACRC will collect and analyze information, disclose the results to the public, help the public understand the policies, and reduce the number of petitions.
“The ACRC introduces the integrity assessment for high-ranking officials so that they can take a lead in spreading the culture of anti-corruption and integrity to the whole society,” said Kim.
“We will hold more on-site counseling sessions to discover the needs of the public, and once the problems are identified, we will work together with other relevant government agencies to find solutions to those problems,” said Chae.
The ACRC also seeks to improve unfair systems, by monitoring and solving moral hazard problems, especially those in senior positions.
“We are especially focusing on improving unfair systems caused by public officials and social leaders,” said Chae.
According to Chae, the ACRC seeks to enhance stricter punishments in the event of unfair practices, increase awareness of ethics, and strengthen the code of conduct for seniors.
The ACRC also held an open Q&A session, hoping to address some of the unknown issues that CEOs have while doing business in Korea.
Some of the concerns at the event were voiced by Josef Meilinger, CEO of Siemens Korea, who expressed concerns about the lack of framework within Korean law, and too strict enforcement of code of conduct.
Lee Dong-soo, representative director of Pfizer Korea, Heikki Ranta, president of Cargotec Korea, and Minami Aida, general manager of Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation, were among participants of the event.
By Robert Lee (firstname.lastname@example.org)