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Corruption in South and North Korea

Young Jong Kim, Ph.D.
Professor of Soong-Sil University, Seoul, Korea

Major lssues

In recent years, socialist countries such as Russia, China, and North Korea have also shown that corruption problems are serious in the socialist countries as well. For example, in Russia and her satellite countries, corruption has been identified as a major cause of collapses of their national development and systems. The recent reports indicate that serious corruption problems are prevalent in the country.

In South Korea, since 1993, the Administration of President Kim has strongly pursued anti-corruption policy in the political and bureaucratic system. His strong and persistent anti-corruption policy has shown a fair amount of success on the surface, but the government policy has not completely succeeded in improving the quality of the ordinary citizens' everyday life. The reports have been partially disappointed to the government because the reports indicate that corruption phenomenon under the new Government seems to get worse. The tax scandals of the tax officials reported in 1994 in Seoul, Inchun, Pusan, Taegu, and other cities showed the anti-corruption policy under the new government had not worked well. Also, the recent tragedies such as the collapse of Sung-Su bridge and the gas explosion case in Taegu and Seoul have closely involved in bureaucratic corruption incidences. Furthermore, a total of 564 out of 5170 local congress men, which is equivalent to 11% from the total numbers, were prosecuted as criminals and corruption cases since 1991. In particular, it has turned out that President Kim's closest staff in the Blue House received almost "$4million from businessmen as bribes and nearly $3 million from special interest groups as courtesy." Also, it was discovered that a lots of presidential staffs and high ranking officials including politicians had received bribes from the Hanbo Steel company in return "for their putting pressure on banks to extend credit to the company." Surprisingly, in the process of the investigation of the Hanbo Steel company corruption, the public realised that .president Kim's son involved in the corruption and bribes from the Hanbo Steel company and ot4er business corporations."(Kim, Kwang Woong,1997,pp.1-12) This implies that the new government has strongly pursued the anti-corruption policy, but failed.

What about the case of North Korea? Since the last Stalinist's sudden demise in 1994, North Korea has turned into an enigmatic world than ever. Kim, Jung II, the strongest candidate for power succession for his father, appeared as a leader though any official ceremony for his inauguration as the position of premier has not taken place. However, it might not be so important for Kim, Jung II to succeed his fathers charisma at this time. The more important problem that North Korea must resolve is the structural corruption itself in the political and bureaucratic system in that country. In other words, the serious political and bureaucratic corruption caused by Kim's 50 years of control may indicate a red signal of self-collapse in the near future.

The rampant corruption phenomena under different systems and ideologies of both South and North Korea raises interesting questions:

  1. Is it possible to prevent the corruption by using external systems or policies?
  2. Do we have conviction to control the corruption with capitalistic measures?
  3. How can we suggest ideal anti-corruption policies in capitalistic societies and socialist countries?
  4. What are the differences and similarities of prevalent corruption phenomena in South and North Korea?

Theoretical Overview of Corruption

The concept of corruption has been discussed by many different scholars in various literature. For example, Heidenheimer focuses on the third category of political phenomenon (Heidenheimer, 1978), while Scott emphasises the special case of political influence where deviant behaviour comes from the duties of the public office (Kim, 1994). Johnston points out the reality of corruption, focusing on personal explanations as a consequence of human nature, institutional explanations as a consequence of loopholes, hidden dynamics or unintended side effects inherent in our institutions and laws, and systematic explanations focusing on a form of influence within the political system, rather than as some sort of despoiling force from without (Johnston, 1982).

Huntington views the political corruption as a result of social frustration and dissatisfaction in the process of political development and economic growth or social mobilisation(Huntington, 19W). Gould seems to emphasise the bureaucratic corruption, especially focusing on the case of developing countries rather than developed countries. That is, he mainly points out the special circumstances such as rapid economic and social change, strong kinship and ethnic ties, overlapping, resulting in monopoly of economic activities, condition of political softness, widespread poverty and socio-economic in equalities, imbalance in the legitimacy of governmental organisations, and systematic mal-administration as the main reasons of bureaucratic corruption in those countries (Gould, 1983). This is especially true in North Korea where one of the causes of the famine is because of corruption between political leaders or bureaucrats and the famine is also causing more corruption. For example, "in North Korea everyone is slowly starving together. It's a kind of socialist famine. While the elite in the Community Party and the military lives better." The children and old people have died of starvation or have changed into just skin and bone. Recently, World Food Program appealed for an additional $46 million in emergency aid. However, Kim Jung II conveniently absolved himself of any responsibility for the food crisis, arguing that he was already too busy taking care of military and party matters. Also, he insisted that his dad Kim, II Sung told him before he died not to get ",involved with economic work." (NewsWeek,May5,1997,p21 ;July21,1997,p.16)

As discussed above, many scholars have attempted to conceptualise their own definition of corruption on the basis of different perspectives. In addition, we need to include several essential elements in terms of the conceptualisation of corruption.

First, an integrated approach is applicable since it can combine and complement different perspectives on the concept of corruption. Different approaches to the study of society and social sciences including corruption study are located in a frame of reference of one kind or another. Those different theories or conceptualisations are based upon a whole set of assumptions which reflect a particular view of the nature of the subject under investigation (Burrell and Morgan, 1979). Therefore, in the context of the integrated perspective, we may define the concept of political and bureaucratic corruption as follows: Corruption is a complex, political, and bureaucratic phenomena of politicians or bureaucrats or related citizens' deviant behaviour resulting from violation of socio-cultural norms, political, and administrative expectations. We observe this concept were originated from the analysis of maladjustment among political or bureaucratic systems, political, administrative, socio-cultural environment, and politicians or bureaucrats; behaviour (Kim, p.200).

Secondly, we recognise the difference between pollitical corruption and bureaucratic corruption. That is, political corruption mainly focuses on politicians' behaviour or attitudes which resulted from the violation of political norms or expectations, while bureaucratic corruption deals with bureaucrats; behaviour in the process of implementation of public policy by using his power for his own benefits or greed. In fact, it is not easy to define the differences between two subjects because the paradigm of political theory is sometimes very similar to that of public administration.

Third, political corruption and bureaucratic corruption have been deeply involved in mutual causes and consequences in most countries, especially in developing countries. For example, the bureaucrats in the developing countries have often played the faithful role of the politicians because of the strong impact of political decision making in the bureaucratic system. During the election, the bureaucrats are only concerned with which candidate will serve their interest after the election.

In short, corruption can be seen as a global phenomenon that is based upon its own economy, political structure, and social culture that exists in every types of society. Also, we must recognise the effect it has on political and bureaucratic systems.

The corruption phenomenon itself is a perplexing problem that needs to be carefully analysed with an eagle-eye's view (Kim, 1 M, p. 199). Therefore, the possible classification corruption can be made based on the characteristics of that individual society.

The Experience of South Korea

The experience of Korea has shown that the widespread and rampant corruption has brought the threshold of painful changes in Korea's political and administrative history. For instance, the April Students' Revolution was a giant revolt against President Rhee's corrupted administration. The Military Revolution in 1961 also raised a beautiful slogan to root up the prevalent corruption of the previous regimes, though it has been strongly criticised by many scholars and politicians due to the causation of embarking of illegitimate military regime in the country. Interestingly, the 5th, 6th regime, and Kim's new government in 1993 have promised to drive out the accumulated evils and rampant corruption for the people. Preventing the widespread corruption should be one of the important national tasks that has been assigned to the government (Kim, 1990, p.1). Ironically, although many political elites attempted to control such a serious corruption, they themselves have become corrupted in the process of policy making or implementation. The experience of Korea shows that there are unique characteristics of the corruption phenomena in South Korea. First, the major causes of political and bureaucratic corruption phenomena are derived from excessive authoritarian, political, and bureaucratic esteem. The centralisation of power and abuse of authority provided possible opportunities for corruption. Traditionally, the Korean political system has been extremely centralised, because of the influence of Confucianism which came from China since 14th century(Henderson, 1968). During the 19th Century, the Korean political and bureaucratic system can be characterised by Confucian society and feudalism. bureaucratic despotism, and official appointment system, i.e., Kwageo (Hong, 1980). Likewise, the appearance of Confucianism as a political doctrine of the unity of knowledge and conduct indicates the importance of the feudalistic relationship of domination-subordination. In particular, the centralising tendency has been caused by Parks government since the Military coup in 1961 as well as socio-cuftural legacy (Caiden and Kim, 1991, pp. 159-160). Centralisation can be explained by the reference to the interest configuration of economic, bureaucratic, and political forces that have been dominant during that period (Jung, 1991, p. 160). This indicates extremely centralised control of the government for the power maintenance of authoritarian political elites. In fact, the relationship between central and local government was like that of the master and servant. As we mentioned earlier, Parks regime confirmed that the organisation of self government was suspended in the 1960s. In particular, Parks bureaucracy has been strongly founded on regulation or power oriented administration that creates a variety of dysfunction or by-products of rapid economic growth policy in its pursuit of economic developmental strategy (Kim, 1994, p. 89).

Secondly, the corruption has been created by political and bureaucratic elites in the process of policy making and implementation, especially the military and economic republics. The May military coup in 1961 led by Major General Park Chung Hee brought to an end of a brief period of democratic revival. Park quickly established his control over the country's political life by declaring martial law and dissolving the National Assembly and all political parties (Hart-Landsberg, 1993). Demonstrations became illegal, while the press was censored. There were a total of 11 extraordinary measures during Park's 18 years' control, four declarations of Marshall law, one of garrison decree, and one declaration of emergency situation and five of emergency measures. Park also established his control over the economy. Perhaps his strong growth-oriented policy might be equivalent to growth-ideology that justifies his illegitimate military regime for the nations. Practically, Park created several institutional equipment to support his economic policy by creating new planning agencies such as Economic Planning Board and new business organisations like the various producer associations. Park initially justified his coup by claiming that it was necessary to end corruption in the government and society. However, it seems coincidental that all of the fifty-one business owners were quickly released after pledging their loyalty to Park and agreed to pay fines, indicates Park's immediate exploitation of the almost absolute power by illegal gains. The U.S. House of Representatives report on South Korean-American relations makes this point clear (U.S. House of Representatives. 1978, p. 27.): Commenting on the overall situation in late 1961, the US. Embassy reported to Washington that the junta was displaying leniency toward those arrested for corruption after the coup; and signs of corruption and graft were re-emerging at the highest levels of the Government. Another example of Park's control over the economy is that KCIA(Korean Central Intelligence Agency) established by Park deeply served for his own personal political power, especially involved in raising funds for political party activities such as illegal schemes and corruption; the construction of the Walker Hill Resort which was designed for uses of US. military personnel, duty-free importation, profitable resale of pinball machines and Japanese cars, and the covert manipulation of the South Korean stock market.

The Jun's regime in the 5th Republics of Korea was similar to military dictatorship, export-led growth, and abuse of political and bureaucratic power, which perhaps was more than Parks regime. For example, military men were placed in charge of the police, ruling party. the intelligence network, and planning the Olympics. Hundreds of retired officers were given political and administrative positions such as ambassadors, mayors, and major positions; of the central government as well. This indicates that there is a formal government, and there is a sort of informal government that really controls other things (Haberrnan, 1987, p. A3).

Jun basically followed Park's growth-oriented line: labour repression to fight inflation, restoring competitiveness to light manufacturing industries, and boosting chaebol (plutocracy) profits. In particular, direct state intervention was used to support financially troubled chaebol as well as shrink excess capacity and reorganise products. As a result, political and economic power between the political elites and chaebol elites has strongly cemented in the procedure of financial support for the chaebol, indicated more bribery-corruption from chaebol to the politicians or bureaucrats state more financial support from the government. Statistics shows the degree of the chaebols involved in the structure of the Korean economic system during Park and Jun's regime. For example, in terms of production, the combined sales of the top ten chaebol had risen from 15.1% of GNP in 1974 to 48.1% in 1.980 (Amsden, 1984, p.43.).

It is well known that Jun's regime is a traditional racketing state than as a developmental state in terms of corruption study in the country. For example, the chaebols were forced to give Jun large amounts of money as a political contribution. Jun established his own foundation called the "Ilhae Foundation" in 1984. The top 12 chaebols were forced to give approximately $14 million in a year to the Foundation. In addition, those chebol leaders who refused to pay contributions were dealt harshly by the government. This was demonstrated most clearly in the case of Kukje-ICC group in 1985. In particular, Jun's regime has involved in widespread corruption associated with relatives' participation of both Jun and his wife in illegal dealings. For example, Jun's younger brother was in charge of the New Village Movement, while Jun's wife founded and chaired the New Generation Foundation which she apparently used as her own personal conduit for kickbacks and bribes. On the other hand, her father used to be the key player in land scandals related to advanced notification of land zoning changes and land purchases. Other members of her family supposedly profited from illegal financial schemes involving corporate loans (Hart-Landsberg, 1993, p. 236). As a result, the former President Jun had to testify before the national Assembly on the abuse of power and other misdeeds perpetuated during the seven years of his authoritarian rule on Dec. 31, 1989.

Although the regime was supported by the free election and the Constitutional law between ruling and opposition party, the corruption phenomena in 6th Republics of Korea led by Roh in 1988 was similar to the previous Jun's regime. Regarding the Chaebol policy, Roh also attempted to protect them, and gain political funds as well. As a result, in 1988, 76.9% of all privately owned land was just owned by 6.2% of the whole population, meaning that the gap between the have and the not-have was tremendously increasing. Interestingly, the top chaebol officially reported to own approximately 429 million square meters of land valued at some $15 billion as well as an additional 45,000 square meters of buildings. These kinds of illegal or immoral activities of the chaebol stimulated the political and economic or social problems for the state. The serious speculation for the lands made the citizens frustrated and disappointed, and this lead to the impossibility to obtain housing for ordinary citizens with their salaries, because the real estate process rose 14.7% in 1987, 27.5% in 1988, 32% in 1989, and even higher in 1990. In particular, the unbalanced growth policy by Park, Jun, and Roh resulted in a serious gap among different strata and regions, reporting that 80.4% of the respondents agreed the existence of serious regional conflict, while 88.3% of the respondents recognised serious conflicts among different strata (Kim, 1989, pp. 351-352). Thus, the causes of political and bureaucratic corruption in Korea can be traced back to various factors such as corrupt behaviour of politicians and bureaucrats, miss-management and mal-administration of the military regimes, and demands or supplies of the socio-cultural environment.

Thirdly, institutional equipment's for controlling corruption in Korea could be pointed out clearly that the governmental agencies for anti- corruption have been diversified: President's Secretary, Prime Ministers' Secretary, Board of Audit and Inspection, CPC (Commission for Preventing Corruption), and Inspection General of each Ministry, and Public Prosecutor. However, the most important anti-corruption agencies would be equivalent to Public Prosecutor and the BAI (Board of Audit and Inspection). The Public Prosecutor is the official and governmental agency to investigate and indict the state in cases of criminal and corruption cases on the basis of criminal law, criminal procedure act, and public prosecutor act. On the other hand, the BAI was established on the basis of constitutional law and BAI act. Actually, the BAI was the most important supreme audit and inspection organisation among the governmental organisations for preventing corruption in Korea. The BAI retains an independent status although it has been established under the President. The BAI's duties and functions are to confirm the closing accounts of revenues and expenditures of the State, to audit the State, local autonomous bodies, government invested organisations, and other entities. The new government led by President Kim, Young Sam since 1993 has established CPC (Commission for Prevention of Corruption) as a purely advisory body of mostly private citizens to help the Chairman of the BAI: to analyse the causes of misconduct, corruption, and preventive measures; to develop ways to correct defects in laws, decrees, and institutions that tend to foster irregularities; and to develop recommendations on how to improve the activities of the BAI to stamp out misconduct and corruption.

The Koreas recent experience of the new government showed that the top-down anti-corruption drive was not sufficient and this resulted in a failure. Some politicians as well as bureaucrats argue that all of the previous Presidents such as Rhee, Park, Jun, and Rho suggested some sort of anti-corruption policy in the beginning of their political regimes, but failed to succeed. In fact, the recent big scandals in the new government such as tax scandals, bank-related illegal loan, and construction related corruption also shows a similar indication. Focusing on the controlling mechanism seems perfect at least in terms of external perspective in the case of the corruption in Korea. Yet, the control systems against the political and bureaucratic corruption do not work well, and even they create a serious conflict in the process of law enforcement for combating corruption. Moreover, it is also true that the related anti-corruption policy makers themselves were often criticised by the public as corrupted power organisations. This current situation is a dilemma for the politicians in South Korea implementing anti-corruption policies.

Paradoxically, the corruption phenomena have continually increased since the inauguration of President Kim's reform oriented administration. For example, according to statistics made available by the prosecution authorities, a total of 3,887 government employees were embroiled in various corruption incidences in 1996. This marks a sharp increase of 28% compared with the previous year's figures. Interestingly, what is most alarming is the startling fact that the officials involved in bribery cases increased dramatically, showing a staggering 93.5% rise over the previous year.(Korea Herald, March 10,1997). More ironically, the new government leader, Kim Young Sam's son as well as previous Presidents, Jun and Roh also has been accused of taken a lot of bribes from several businesses although the amount was less than ex-Presidents'. Thus reality requires us to create a morally sound atmosphere in which civil servant must set an good example. At the same time, it is necessary to set up a righteous yardstick as well as looking for any dramatic changes of public officials' morale. Furthermore, ft is so natural to sustain anti- corruption campaign and education for the citizens as well as public servants.

North Korea, the Land of Kim Jung II: Was it Corrupt?

In the beginning of 1989, the vast majority of 23 states in the world were classified as a communist country, However, most of the communist countries were collapsed in between 1989 and 1991. This historic outcome can be described as the "double rejective revolution, or crisis of socialist countries; or the end of communist power" (Holmes, 1993, pp. XI, Suh, 1993, pp. 1-5, Kim, 1994, p.1-80)1. As Brzezinski points out, today's communism is in a crisis, both ideologically and systematically.

Since 1989 the crisis has been called the "Grand Failure," which focuses on the Leninist legacy, the Stalinist catastrophe, stagnant Stalinism, and the paradox of reform (Brzezinski, 1990,p. 232). In fact, many of the communist countries or socialist countries have been collapsed by internal or external factors since 1989. For example, in the beginning of the year, the Soviets completed their military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which was the home of Marxism and Leninism, USSR disintegrated by the end of 1991, and replaced by the CIS after Mikhail Gorbachev and Boris Yeltsin's democratic control.2 In April, 1989, Chinese students strongly protested against the corrupted government, and occupied the world's largest square, Tiananmen and the Berlin Wall came down in November 1989. On the other hand, the satellite countries of the USSR such as Romania, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Yugoslavia collapsed as the destruction of the external empire of the Soviet herself.

The crisis of communism finds expression in the following (Brzezinski, 1990, p. 233):

  1. Continuous defection of the new countries from the Soviet- influenced model
  2. Weakening of the position of the Communist countries in economic competition with the free enterprise democracies
  3. Disintegration of the Soviet bloc
  4. Aggravation of the contradictions of communism with the development of state-monopolistic socialism and the growth of militarism
  5. Intensification of internal instability of communism and decay of the communist economy
  6. Establishment in a number of Communist countries of personal tyrannies
  7. Profound crisis in communist policy and ideology

Surprisingly, North Korea does not seem to be affected very much by external environment, compared with other communist countries. According to Brzezinski, China and North Korea have marked 8 points (index of the crisis level in communist states) which is below 10, indicating that it is not in a crisis state(lbid,p.234). Apparently, it seems true that North Korea have continued her extensive military build-up: the continuous allocation of large percentage of GNP to the military sector, hardening of forward-deployed positions, emphasis on offensive equipment, and the continued efforts to develop nuclear weapons, etc. As a result, the Korean peninsular is one of most dangerous places in the world where another Korean war may break out in the recent future if any practical and efficient control does not work well(Mazarretetal.,1991,p. 112).

It may be said that the Korean peninsular has entered a period of grave uncertainty after the death of North Korean President Kim II Sung on July 8, 1994. He has controlled the country more than 50 years on the basis of charismatic, authoritative, and absolute power. This is why North Korea was a land of Kim, II Sung's. He had been considered as a "living god" by the dictator of political elites for a half century. It has been ruled by the dictator of political elites as if he were a "living god" served by the people for a half century. It might be too soon to say that the political power of north korea has been completely occupied by another "living god" served by the people, who is his son, Kim, Jong II. Because there has not been any official inaugurtion ceremony for his position as the president. Nevertheless, there is no other alternative but to choose him as a President of the country, considering his father's strong support for him before his death. Although it does not seem to be a problem to obtain his father's charismatic power for the time being, yet, scholars do not hesitate to point out clearly the current problems which the North Korea or Kim, Jung II will be face sooner or later (Ahn, 1994, p.98.).

The North's economic crisis and the nuclear issue will seriously challenge Kim's skills as a political operator. Scenarios for his downfall are many. Intense debates could fracture his elite circle into competing power centres, internal challengers may seek to undermine Kim's uncertain stature, exposing to the public tales of corruption or other more unsavoury aspects of Kim's private life, the specter of mass starvation could spark rebellions among people. Considering the related information that is available, it is not too difficult to say that the future of North Korea could be called as "the land of Kim, Jung II" which will absolutely be controlled by him. However, it is not clear whether or not he will maintain his power without internal or structural resistance for a long time. Perhaps, his powers will be reduced after a few years because of latent and negative variables.

The most important question we ask is that whether or not he can cure the serious diseases of corruption in his country. Information related to corruption is very rarely publicised in North Korea (Holmes, 1993, p. 92.). In spite of this, the examples of corruption in North Korea can be shown as follows (Ibid., p.92): In February 1987, 11 North Koreans arrived in Seoul. They had defected from the DPRK(Democratic People's Republic of Korea) in January, and had reached the ROK via Japan and Tiwan.

The leader of the group-a doctor by the name of Kim, Man Chol-told the journalists of how he had bribed guards at a North Korean port with wine and cigarettes so that they could turn a blind eye while his family and friends boarded a boat to flee the country. Interestingly, Kim also revealed that he had bribed an (unspecified) city official with medicine so that he could see the political dossier on his (Kim's) family. Several defectors since Kim's defection have further testified that Kim Jung II has an unnamed fund for himself in the Swiss Bank. They point out that bribery is used everywhere and is a common occurrence in the daily lives of North Korean people. According to pilot defector, Kang Chul Soo, Kim Jung II is continually using the government funds to maintain his popularity by giving away money to particular people. Kang testified that people who are in the high position, such as government officials, have wealth, apparently in part through bribery. Other defectors testified that North Koreas economic situation and food shortages are not only dismantling the country's elite class(as reflected by and recent succession of defection by elite North Koreans) but also the general public as well.

Nepotism is a common evidence of corruption in North Korea. Definitely, Kim, Jung II's succession of his fathers power means that North Korea is the worlds first communist dynasty since mid-1945s. None the less, the nomination formally came from the Central Committee, but actually was from his father. Moreover, Kim lacks his father's charisma, which could result in a short reign than his father's. Whether or not his position can be processed by the Central Committee, the leadership succession from Kim, II Sung to his son is a good example of nepotism as a cause of political corruption. Evidences of nepotism can be also shown in other cases in North Korea as well. The relatives of Kim, Jung II have extremely powerful positions in North Korea. His younger sister is a chairperson of light industrial committee, her husband is the director of youth committee, and communist party, Kim, Jung II's younger brother is the vice president, Kim, II Sung's second wife who has a position of female federation, and Kim, Jung II's cousin has the position of the chairman of supreme councils of communist party. Furthermore, most of Kim Jung II 's relatives such as various cousins, nephews, brothers and sisters, in laws and other relatives have very high positions in the government. In fact North Korea has been controlled by relative power elites of Kim, II Sung and Kim, Jung II for a half a century. This case can be called as the "power-related corruption".

The case of "grey" corruption also can be illustrated as follows (Ibid, pp.116-117). In October 1976, the Danish, Norwegian, Finnish and Swedish governments expelled a number of North Korean diplomats for smuggling alcohol, cigarettes and dangerous drugs into the Scandinavian countries. The Danish foreign minister claimed they were probably doing it under orders from Pyongyang, in order to earn much needed hard currency. We point out that corruption, especially political and bureaucratic corruption phenomena is prevalent and notorious in North Korea. Consequently, North Korea residents could be deeply involved in "everyday corruption"3 (Darrell P. Hammer, 1986).

In fact, the post-functionalistic approach might be applied to the case of this country as an appropriate model to observe rampant corruption phenomena because of the following reasons (Werner, 1983, pp. 146-154):

  1. The socio-economic or political inequality in North Korea is a serious problem and it stimulates the corruption.
  2. Excessive government control in North Korea tends to enhance the corruption
  3. Over institutionalisation in the country may cause the corruption
  4. Therefore, we may point out that political and bureaucratic corruption in North Korea seems to work like a modus operandi as well as that in other socialist countries.

Nevertheless, the causes and consequences of political and bureaucratic corruption in North Korea can be explained more in depth. First, the political and bureaucratic corruption of North Korea seems to be an inevitable result in the process of political decision making by one-man who is Kim, II Sung or Kim, Jung II's absolute power on the basis of so-called "chuche(self-reliance)" ideology for a half century. In other words, characters of North Korean Bureaucracy are fundamentally involved in the dysfunction of the closed, over authoritative, monopolised, and pyramidal structures. As a result, the systems create multiple problems in the process of policy making and implementation. That is, the by-products of the system are tremendous; the bureaucracy has been controlled by a strong dictator, monopoly of mass communication, planned economy controlled by central government, use of bureaucratic ideology, and strict control by military or police.

In this respect, there is no guarantee for the people's basic human rights in North Korea. We would say that the authoritative absolute power and order-submission economy and administration only should be in existence instead of any realistic institutional equipment for improving the quality of life. Serious economic crisis in North Korea also have encouraged the corruption activities. This is shown in the disappearance of communist allies such as Russia and other East European countries and the North's autarkic mismanagement have devastated their economy. What is more interesting is to compare the economic situations with that of South Korea. Between 1989 and 1993, gross national product which is a size of $20.5 billion in North Korea is equivalent to roughly one-sixteenth the size of the South Korea's $328.7 billion economy. In particular, food and energy shortages are problems for the North so most of the factories reportedly operate at 30% capacity. Moreover, North Koreans have been urged to eat only two meals a day by the government. It should be noted that in December 1993, the regime for the first time they acknowledged its failure to obtain the targets of the third seven year plan (Ahn, 1994, p. 97). Perhaps, the poor economic conditions in North Korea may cause corruption by tempted politicians or bureaucrats as receivers and the residents as providers for opportunities of the corruption. In addition, it is not too difficult to say that the political and bureaucratic elites in the North have done the abuse of power, which resulted in power-related corruption.

Secondly, the political and bureaucratic corruption in the North Korea can be caused by the weaknesses of political system: excessive undemocratic system and the dysfunction of the system. According to the Constitutional Law, Articles 105-110, of North Korea, the president possesses absolute powers such as that of a "living god" as a charismatic leader. Indeed, Kim has a power like that of Kim is the state and the state is Kim. Surprisingly, there have not been any kind of 'checks and balances' control mechanism for the one-man monarchy ruled by Kim, II Sung or his son, Kim, Jung II after his death. This shows that sovereignty is to the one man, Kim Jung II. The other governmental agencies are like a accessory for his power-maintenance. This closed undemocratic political and social environments can be good soil for trees of corruption to grow. In socialist countries, it is common to have connection between the economy and the polity. The corruption in North Korea can be explained as the by-products of enforced elites powers.

Third, the consequences of the corruption with the North may predict that corruption could be one of the serious part of crises and threat in the recent future. Corruption can seriously undermine the social fabric of the society and the legitimacy of the political order that are both seriously threatened. This might even cause the collapse of North Korea such as it did with Czechoslovakia in the late 1960s, Poland at the beginning of the 1980s, the December 1986 riots in Kazakhstan, the USSR in 1991, Eastern Europe in 1989, and to the Tiananmen incident in the PRC later that year. This is why the most of communist country authorities implicitly or explicitly wish to demonstrate to their citizenry and their staffs the superiority of the communist system over the capitalist system in the other part of the country.

Nevertheless, North seems to have serious dysfunction of political and bureaucratic corruption, resulting in the North's residents' strong frustration against the Kim's regime though they have not expressed their psychological dissatisfaction because of strongly enforced control. It might not be easy to delineate precise scenarios for the North after Kim's Jung II's official take-over from his father. However, three possibilities exist: the ascension of a reform-minded military-bureaucratic regime, a violent collapse of the state, or serious power struggle among his relatives. The occurrence of these possibilities primarily depends on the quality of the North's leadership, the cohesion of the its elite, the leadership's ability to cope with the economic crisis, how to prevent prevalent corruption, and how it manages the nuclear issue.4

We may suggest that even though any possibilities in the future after Kim's take-over is to exist in the North, the efficient and effective anticorruption policy should be sought to maintain the political and bureaucratic system for their wish.

Corruption: Comparison in South and North Korea

The two halves of Korea have many things in common: their ancestry, language, historical legacy, and cultural heritage (Bridges, 1986, p.5). In spite of this, it is not too difficult to recognise the deep gap between the two countries because the divergent and ideologically polarised political, administrative, economic, and social systems have been independently developed over almost a half century since 1945. Furthermore, the 155 miles separating North and South Korea along the thirty-eighth parallel, in the most heavily armed border in the world. Therefore, it is one of the globe's most dangerous place, where a major war could break out within forty-eight hours, potentially the involvement of the 35,000 US. troops who are stationed there (Lilley, 1994, p. 119). It is interesting to observe the reality of corruption, especially focusing on political and bureaucratic corruption between the North and South Korea, with their different ideologies and systems.

Recognising Corruption-Basically, North Korea does not recognise the existence of corruption because top political leaders fear the people's frustration and their revolt against their system. Although corruption is widespread and visible in the country, they do not report the corruption incidences. For example, North Korea had reported almost no cases of corruption until late 1989 (Holmes, 1993, pp. 214-216). However, it seems true that they are trying to reveal the cases for the people since the beginning of the 1990s,meanirig a warning to them. The corrupt bureaucrats or political elites have severely been punished by the top political elites, who are Kim II Sung, or his son, Kim, Jung II.

On contrary, in South Korea, whether or not it was based on legitimate reasons, most previous top political leaders have raised good excuse to eradicate prevalent corruption phenomena when they took over political power. For example, Park, Jun, Roh, and Kim all of the Presidents in South Korea have had strong campaign against Corruption at the beginning of their take-over, but were never sustained. Although we need to waft and see more, the current President Kim seems to be different, compared to the previous regimes. It is well known that the small fishes (petty corruption case) are caught by the related authority, but big fishes are not caught well, meaning that the government usually avoids punishment to corrupted bureaucrats or politicians who can not be easy to dealt with, are to their high positions or strong backgrounds. Yet, it is in the process of change under the new government.

Causation of corruption-One of the significant causes of corruption in North Korea may be referred to the absolute one-man monarch such as the late Kim, II Sung or his eider son, Kim, Jung II. Actually, the two people were just respected like "living-god" in North Korea whether or not the people liked truly. In fact, Kim, II Sung was the longest-serving ruler in the world as a dictator. Also, Kim, Jung II's take-over means the first lineal succession in the communist country (Korea Times, July 14, 1994). Kim II Sung had absolute sovereignty and it is most likely Kim, Jong II will, too. The two Kim's power, of abuse and immoral private lives are often reported, and political Corruption has usually been caused by the top political elites' autocratic authority and power, because nothing can control them if they want to use their absolute power. We may remind the political prisoners amounts to more than 150,000 that protested against two Kim's as a failure.

In South Korea, although the previous presidents were involved in serious Corruption incidences, many of corruption phenomena were caused by diversified strata of public officials or politicians. Surprisingly, the recent reports indicate that local level corruption cases are rapidly increasing in response to localisation and decentralisation. For example, approximately 11% of the local congress men has been accused of corruption related cases since 1991. No exceptions are in local administrative agency. The recent reports also show us the rapid increase of local public service employee, especially tax, embezzlement, loan, and building related corruption.

Some forms of corruption in North Korea are peculiar, compared with those in South Korea. For example, in North Korea, there is a serious shortages of foods, goods and housing, so there is more scope and likelihood of public officials being involved in corruption than when there are no such significant shortages. Perhaps there are more scope for corruption by public officials simply because more public officials are involved in running the economy than in a more privately owned and market-oriented economy. In South Korea, we might argue that there are more opportunities for bribery relating to contracts for new roads or buildings in a competitive market system than in a state monopoly in North Korea (Holmes, 1993, p. 268).

Consequences of corruption-In general, corruption is more destructive in communist countries than in capitalist countries. It seems quite true that non-communist countries or their regimes have sometimes collapsed with links to failures to control corruption: the Marcos regime in the Philippines, Takeshita in Japan, Nixon's in the USA, and Lee's Government in South Korea, etc. However, it seems also true that the advanced and well-established liberal democratic systems have rarely, if ever, collapsed.

This is due to the advanced liberal democratic systems that are more resistant to the effects of bureaucratic corruption. In particular, corruption has played or is currently playing a major role in weakening the communist systems that either have collapsed already such as Eastern Europe or USSR or are likely to do so in the near future such as Vietnam, Cuba, or the PRC. In this context, the serious corruption phenomena in North Korea might be more destructive than that of South Korea, if the government authority does not prepare any preventive equipment.

Comparing the consequences of Corruption which may be related to the development and human rights between two countries is interesting. At this juncture, development contains progress, evolution, change, growth, transformation, industrialisation, and modernisation which have qualitative and quantitative meaning as well as divergence and convergence or long-term and short-term progress(Kim, 1989). It is not easy to compare the levels of corruption between two countries except visible military, economic and social indicators. The most influential variables which might cause corruption phenomena are the differences of political and bureaucratic system and culture between the two countries. Almost five decades of exposure to different kinds of political socialisation have led the politicians, bureaucrats, and people in the South and North to develop distinct values, world views, and political culture.(Kim, 1995, p.27) As a result, the political and bureaucratic culture in South Korea may be to more pluralistic, open, and informative, while that of North Korea seems one-man monopolistic, charismatic, closed, and confidential. Therefore, the systems in South Korea are resistant to corruption, while that of North Korea is vice versa, meaning that corruption is more destructive, and make collapse of Kim's land like other cases of socialist countries in the recent future.

Basically, the presidential system holds salient characteristics in South Korea since 1945. The previous presidents such as Park, Jun, and Roh came from military generals, but Kim, current president of South Korea is a purely civilian who has worked for democratic struggles against dictatorship for several decades. Meanwhile, in the case of North Korea, the country was totally controlled by one man, Kim, II Sung. After his death in 1994, his son, Kim Jung II has been in control of the country on the basis of his fathers heritage. In particular, the political and bureaucratic culture in North Korea may be referred to authoritarianism, command-abeyance, and top-down vertical characteristics, while that of South Korea, influenced by Confucianism or traditional heritage, may be referred to formalism, familism, emotional humanism, and nepotism. It is not too difficult to assume that the dominant form of the exercise of power in North Korea is just coercion itself, which is primarily referred to the charismatic 'chuche' ideology. Surprisingly, North Korea is continually using too much centralised system, while South Korea, since in the 1990s, is strongly attempting decentralisation and localisation.

We do not mean that decentralisation is not always a good system to prevent corruption, but ft is very useful to alleviate too much authoritative political and bureaucratic structures as well as such a mentality. In this context, it seems clear that more authoritative power related to corruption cases will increase in the North, while vice versa in the South.


It is clear that the communist world since 1989 moved from communism to post-communism. It might be too early to say that all of the communists country will end within a few years. However, it is mostly true that most communist countries have a serious crisis or holocaust in the process of enlargement of their ideology and power. Accordingly, we need carefully to observe the case of North Korea. The main reason of collapse in the communist countries has been pointed out by the related scholars, focusing on prevalent and uncontrolled corruption phenomena. The most important assignment of Kim, Jung II regime is to control corruption, since this is the invisible enemy to make rapid destruction of the political and bureaucratic system in the North. In turn, rapid increase of corruption in North Korea on the basis of political and economic crises should be the greatest threat of Kim's regime. Ultimately, more Corruption may stimulate collapse of the North. As a result, corruption could serve Seoul or Pyongyang that Korean unification can surety come in the recent future, which is rather an irony,

One of most important tasks which has been assigned to South Korea is similar to the case of North Korea, that is, how to prevent rampant corruption. As we discussed in the above, Kim, Young Sam who is new president in South Korea has strongly pursued anti-corruption policy since his inauguration in 1993. However, according to recent reports, increases of corruption seem to imply that his anti-corruption should be inefficient or ineffective because of some reasons. They might be system problems or structural problems or it could be the political and bureaucratic culture itself. Otherwise, it could be the problem of leadership or miss-management or mal-administration, itself. Yet, it must be pointed out that if corruption in the country just means 'modus operandi' itself, and if public officials or political leaders or ordinary citizens may not survive without corruption like 'everyday corruption', it might predict another collapse of the regime. Therefore, the new government in South Korea should also seek the integrated and comprehensive anti-corruption policy. The integrated strategy YAII be more efficient and effective to control the political and bureaucratic corruption, because corruption is a very complex political and administrative issue.

Therefore, the biased anti-Corruption strategy is not sufficient enough to control the corruption phenomena. One of the best strategies against political and bureaucratic corruption in both South and North Korea would be to encourage politicians and bureaucrats as well as citizens show strong moral and ethical confidence and conviction to fight against corruption. Yet, questions still remain on how to improve the levels of their moral and ethical conducts.

Notes and References

[1] Leslie Holmes argues that a total of 23 states in the world were equivalent to 'communist countries' in the beginning of 1989, while Suh points out 26 states in the world and 34.4% of the world population were the 'communist countries' that were in crisis in that same year.

[2] Mikhail Gorbachev pursued the Perestroika (restructuring) and Glasnost(public openness or honesty) as his main policy for his government. On the other hand, Boris Yeltsin declared the USSR dead, and established a new Common wealth of Independent States(CIS) on the basis of 11 former republics in December, 1991.

[3] Konstantin Simis or Darrell P. Hammer tries to conceptualise the differences between the above-mentioned types of corruption. For example, the former involves petty bribery to obtain goods or services, resulted in purchasing the chronic shortage of consumer goods, while the latter involves high level officials who engage in illegal trade or take bribes. This explanation originally stands for corruption in Russia, but it could be applied to the case of North Korea as well, considering the recent reports and information. Darrell P. Hammer(1986), The USSR : The Politics of Oligarchy Boulder Westview Press, p.176. Konstantin M. Simis(1982) USSR: The Corrupt Society New York: Simon and Schuster, pp. 205-247.

[4] Ahn argues two possibilities after Kim Jung II's demise such as the ascension of military bureaucratic regime or violent collapse of the state. However, We may point out the alternative pictures rather than simple scenarios. For example, the possibility of serious power struggle among his relatives and the long term political instability, radical change within the structures of the government because of the protest against government, and co-operative change with South Korea or the United States. Byung-joon Ahn(1994), "The Man Who Would be Kim", Foreign Affairs, Vol.73, p.99.

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