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An Op-Ed piece
Is Corruption Cool and Acceptable?
Special Contribution
By Abhishek Joshi
Is corruption cool and acceptable?

Corruption seems to be the mantra for modern day leaders. ‘Corruption-mania' has swept the capitalist, the socialist and the communist nations off their feet. Corruption at the top-most level in the government is omnipresent. Is corruption perverse, when everyone is seemed to have developed liking for it?

President Lee Myung-Bak was hit by a scandal during the last Presidential elections. God was kind and he was inaugurated on 25th February, getting clearance from the judiciary. Almost a year later his popularity has abated even among a few conservatives. Mr. President we know you had a tumultuous first year and there has been no stopping yet. Now, it's the turn of his Finance Minister-designate and his family to give the President nightmares. The Minister-designate has been alleged in a land speculation and tax evasion scandal. It is his wife who bought a land, for farming, under a speculative investment. Speculation: The price was expected to rise due to river refurbishment project under the government. Over 1200 square meters of land was purchased for 140 million KRW (quite a deal!) for farming but the opposition party claims the land is not arable. Further research found that a suburb housing and road construction has been pacing at the speed of light. To add a pseudo application was used and claimed that the farming will begin immediately. Secondly, the Minister-designate did not or "forgot" to pay the gift tax when he aided his daughter in buying a house in Seoul.

It is quite a surprise to know that the Minister-designate was not aware of Agricultural Land Act and "gift tax." It is unacceptable that the men, who will enact laws and make amends to them, show such laxity or oversight. However, this is not confined within the boundaries of Korea. Over the past few days we have read how corrupt officials have been making an entry into Obama administration. Secretary Timothy Geithner, Tom Daschle, Governor Bill Richardson, Nancy Killefer are some of the names which hit the mainstream media within the weeks of the inauguration. Tax evasion and illegal dealings have been the main causes for putting them in the crisis zone. Though the latter three withdrew their nomination but Secretary Geithner was cleared by Senate after he admitted that it was an "unintentional mistake" and "is sorry for that." Although Governor Blagojevich and Bernard Madoff (Ponzi scheme) cases are exceptions where they got punished but it is very rare.

Now this brings us to a very important question, does the corruption and covetousness help us to attain power? Does it help us to get cabinet portfolios? It is logical and "within the box" to see the President manipulating the laws for his/her benefit. It is logical to see the a person evading taxes after becoming the President, but it is hard to believe that doing such deeds will fetch a cabinet portfolio, will help in climbing up the political ladder. The irony is that the topmost person (President Lee and President Obama) wouldn't take stringent actions against the people under consideration and instead promote them. It is really difficult to understand and every argument put forth defending it seems imbecile. All you have to do is either completely refute or be honest by admitting it to be an "unintentional mistake, which would never happen again" and there you get appointed as a lawmaker.

The very law which you broke, you get to govern it. Are such privileges available to only elites? If a Korean (or anybody) had committed same "crime" would it still be termed as an "unintentional mistake" by the concerned government? Would he/she be let go free? No fines, no charges and no subpoena, will any government do so for a common citizen? The answer is NO. Had the same mistake done by a common man instead of any Minister-designate or Secretary-designate, he/she would have been harassed by the government to the hilt. The governments, at least in democracy, should espouse honesty and be compassionate towards the common man than towards the elites. It is the common man who regularly pays taxes, of every kind, and never manipulates the law. The same is rarely seen from the people in power. These things definitely make corruption look acceptable and a leverage to attain power and be in power.

Abhishek D Joshi

Graduate Student
Seoul National University

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Mr. Abhishek Joshi, who serves as special contributor, is currently a graduate student in School of Electrical Engineering at Seoul National University. He is also a member of SNU Quill, first English magazine from Seoul National University, as a writer. He covers the activities by Indian Student Association in Seoul.






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