has become a severe issue in Korea once more due to an outbreak of a series of political
scandals, such as the 2016 South Korea’s high-profile corruption scandal,
called as ‘Choi Soon-sil gate’ and other related corruption scandals.
Perceptions Index (CPI), issued annually by the Transparency International (TI)
showed that the corruption transparency level in Korea peaked in 2005 and
showed other similar patterns over the decade. However, in 2016, without the
impact of Korea’s massive political scandal by Choi Soon-sil, which deteriorated
the former President Park Guen-hye’s administration, are reflected in the CPI;
the index indicated that Korea’s corruption level was drastically high.
For a more effective
response, the system of corruption crimes in Korea requires a deeper
examination for a more comprehensive understanding of the change of trends.
Analytical Framework and Systems of Corruption
It is necessary to
discover the answer to the question: How come there is no available solution
for the corruption in Korea and why is the situation worse than before? In
light of this, this paper will analyze the structure of corruption in Korea
from a Korean democracy and its politics.
The importance of
analyzing political structure: 1) Current corruption trends of Korea
demonstrated that the rates of corruption crimes committed by non-elected and
low-rank governmental officials have remarkably decreased, however, the
seriousness of the crimes committed by high-rank officials and in leadership
positions are still an issue. 2) Recently, corruption in the Executive and the
Legislative branches, especially regarding its political structure and election
system, has significantly influenced the corruption crime trend in Korea.
In comparison to other
democratic countries, Korea has suffered more severe occurrences of corruption.
To explain this phenomenon from the macroscopic and nationwide viewpoints, it
can be suggested that countries with fewer numbers of null and void votes are
less likely to be corrupted. For example, northern European countries with an
election system of 100% proportional representation have secured similarity
between the rates of party turnout and the rates of party seats.
Korea is the country
with the highest percentage of null and void votes and winner-takes-it-all
political system. Therefore, it is very susceptible to corruption compared to
other democratic countries.
The high power of the
imperial president is at the center of the Korean-type of the
winner-takes-it-all political system:
1. The Korean president
has the appointing power directly to an approximate 1,500 positions, including
Prosecutor General, Commissioner of National Tax Service, Chief of National
Intelligence Service and Chief Justice of Supreme Court, and indirectly 20,000
or more job posts. With very weak checks and balances by the National Assembly
and mighty power of the President, President-related corruptions by relatives
and persons in special relations occurred continuously like a vicious circle.
2. Winning the election
is guaranteed to empower the President with too many rights practically rather
than the rate of votes earned. It strongly motivates presidential candidates to
be the winner of the election by all means; thus, a series of secondary and
tertiary corruption scandals may occur.
The Korean political
system of the winner-takes-it-all strengthens the exclusive interest of the
elite power group and continuously creates a derived structure in front of the
power elite. Accordingly, it works with a fundamental mechanism to rationalize
corruption throughout society such as politics, Judiciary, legal circles, and
the private sector.
Implications of Analysis and Proposed
Reform of the Korean
winner-takes-it-all political system is necessary. In other words, it is
crucial to improve the electoral system by altering the current government’s
structure by amending the constitution and expanding the proportional
representation of the parties.