No. I’m not running for the president nor for congress. No. I’m not an attorney. But I do know something is obviously wrong in a society when nine-tenth of the TV news is about fraud and corruption. How is it possible for fraudulent dealings to be so rampant at all levels of the society? I don’t prefer grislier crimes on the news such as rape and murder, but in some ways, they are probably less heinous to the society overall than the corruption-laden doings that can impact so many at once.
When the imperial consul, Jaegal, during the Three Nations Era of China, became so strict and tight about adhering to the letter of the law and metting out punitive measures upon taking over the new western territory, another consul asked whether he shouldn’t be more lenient and bestow benevelonce on the populace now that the new Chok Dynasty had just gotten settled. His answer in a nutshell: Your previous kingdom failed (and thereby Chok became new rulers) because lax administration of law permitted rampant corruption which led to the rapid weakening of the government and its military, in spirit and in force.
In Korea, there is usually a ceiling set for damages. For example (these are not exact but representational), something equivalent to $50,000 or 2 years in jail maximum for financial fraud, maximum $10,000 or business suspension for knowingly tampering with consumer food items even with toxic content, etc. Another interesting aspect to Korea’s legal system is what’s called suspended sentence. A couple of weeks ago, a former aide to a congressman was found “Guilty” of taking $20,000 bribe, carrying an 11 months in jail sentence, BUT concurrently this sentence was “Suspended” for 1 year. In short, he got off scot-free, albeit his reputation a bit besmirched (which in Korea is quickly forgotten and forgiven).
The government is making the connection, it seems, but they are certainly crawling at it at the speed even a sloth could overtake. One device that has seen the light recently, though, is fraud alert award system. Previously the money awarded to the whistleblower was set at 100,00,000 wons(about $90,000 give or take) but that amount has been increased fivefold to 500,000,000 wons, finally making the sum big enough to make up for any one-time job loss one might suffer for snitching on one’s boss or company.
Back in early 1990’s when I sat and watched Korean news about how much tax evasion there was among all vendors, I spoke to anyone who would listen that if all vendors were required to take credit cards and anyone not doing it could be reported for an award, the government would never have to worry about tax evasion. I knew this for a fact because my dentist, my doctor, my pharmacist, my lawyer, my grocer, none of them took credit cards – only cash at that time. When I made this statement I meant for the award to be like $5000 or something, something sizable enough that one could get over the uneasiness of snitching (albeit on fraud), but what the government did was to give the alerter a measly 100,000 wons($90). Of course, hardly anyone took up this offer which led to unneccessarily prolonging tax collection, but these days, it seems pretty well established that everyone takes credit card with one big exception. THE LAWYERS! To think, that of all the people, these legal guardians of our constitution and rights and freedom are the very ones evading the just restitution they owe to the society. Argh! Is it any wonder the country is corrupt?
Don’t get me wrong. I try to pay as least amount of tax as possible, but within the scope of the law. In Korea there’s not only a rampant fraud and corruption which circumvents the law but also just plain simple idiotic laws which have no punch that permit fraud and corruption to flourish. Please lawyers – I mean it inclusively of prosecutors, judges, etc – do the right thing and 1) fix the sham laws, and once that’s done 2) administer them to the word and the spirit.