Action against Corruption: KOREA, SEOUL Seoul Metropolitan Council’s efforts at transparency; funding; use of internet Concern 1 Koreans were horrified by the downturn in the economy in 1997. Many attributed this, at least in part, to corruption, and saw this as part of a broader ethical problem. Action 2 The desire for strong growth of the economy, for the support of the people, and for the recognised legitimacy of government, motivated politicians and officials in the Seoul Metropolitan Government to act against corruption. The focus was on greater transparency, to prove their integrity to the people and provide an economic environment perceived as clean and (therefore) efficient, offering good prospects for growth and inviting investment. 3 This study differs from the others in that participants are invited to assess its relevance to their own organisations on the basis of a paper (copy attached) by Hong- Bin Kang, 2001, and a Cd-Rom Video. 4 One feature of the initiative by the Seoul Metropolitan Government is the introduction of internet-based systems that enable citizens to trace the progress of an application, for a licence for example, through the bureaucracy. This places a strong requirement on staff to process applications quickly. It also requires computer systems that send applications and letters from one official to another (where for the most part they may be dealt with on screen) and provide information for the public about the progress of individual applications. Information 5 The Seoul Metropolitan Government has made a concerted effort to convince the international community and it own supporters at home that it is making major advances against corruption. The paper that follows and a CD Rom provide evidence of this. Comment 6 The use of communications technology has advanced quickly in Korea. How might the approach be adapted for countries where less people use the Internet? SOURCES 7 Discussions and observations, in Seoul Korea, December 2001, with Ministers, officials from central and local government, journalists, private sector representatives, etc 8 Paper by Vice-Mayor or Seoul (copy below). 9 CD Rom/Video, ‘OPEN: Making Seoul Transparent’ – comment follows. OPEN, Making Seoul Transparent; Seoul Metropolitan Government, Korea, 2000, CD Rom, 211 MB, sound track a little faulty. A ten-minute video describing efforts to improve transparency and reduce corruption, with citizens able to monitor progress of applications through a website. (1) The title is derived from referring to ‘Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil applications’. In the CD the Seoul Metropolitan Government presents its four lines of action for a ‘war against corruption’ and ‘making Seoul transparent’: Preventive, with less regulation and abolition of ‘zone jurisdiction’ (allowing the public to do business at any government office, not tying people to one local office); Punitive, with a system of ‘report cards’ to the mayor used by the public when finding corruption by an official, on the basis of which all corrupt acts are punished; Transparent, telling people what to expect and when, especially through provision of information through a website so that people can discover who is processing their application (eg for a licence) at any moment; Partnership - a Public-Private-Partnership that brings citizens into anti-corruption inspection teams. (2) The explanation includes a claim that personal contact between public and officials has been eliminated by the internet, making it impossible for officials to ask for ‘express fees’ or bribes. Citizens do not need to visit or telephone a government office to ask about progress with their application for a licence, or other business. Instead they may look at the website for a progress report. On the CD-Rom we are shown how the progress of an application for a licence for a song-bar may be viewed over the internet. This saves the time and effort of citizens, and of officials, enhancing productivity for nation and government. It is claimed that the system has thus enhanced citizens’ right to know, and brought citizens closer to government. Council managers as well as citizens can check progress on applications and officials know they must not allow any delays to occur. (3) The Council has set up a ‘Seoul Institute of Transparency’ at the University of Seoul. The OPEN programme has been commended by the OECD and by Transparency International. 10 Other papers on recent anti-corruption initiatives in Korea are scheduled for publication by the Asian Development Bank during 2001. DISCUSSION TOPICS 1 How much time do we expect to pass before licence applications through a website are an option for a majority of the population in our countries? 2 What are the work-loads and stresses we would expect for staff working on a transparent web-based system such as that developed in Seoul? 3 What other lessons may we learn from Korea? (Consider the idea of not zoning licence applications so that licensing offices compete with each other). Cleaning up the City Government of Seoul: A Systematic Approach1 Hong-Bin Kang Vice Mayor, Seoul Metropolitan Government Executive Summary The Seoul Metropolitan Government was once called pandemonium due to local officials abusing their position, particularly when granting various permits and licenses. We have adopted a systematic approach to eradicate corruption: preventive measures, punitive measures, increased transparency in administration, and enhanced public-private partnership. First, radical deregulation was carried out, abolishing and revising 80% of regulations that were unduly confining. Furthermore, to prevent illicit ties with business, the long-standing practice of assigning jurisdiction over a specific area to one individual was abolished, and officials were regularly rotated. Secondly, city officials are punished for every single wrongdoing. To ensure the principle of 'zero tolerance' for corruption, we have introduced a direct reporting system to the mayor. In addition, the ‘Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil Applications’ was introduced. This system allows the public to monitor the process of their applications through the Internet. Open record of all stages of administrative procedure eliminates the need for personal contact with a particular official. It does away with the so-called express fees. Since the OPEN system was implemented in April last year, the transparency and integrity of the Seoul Metropolitan Government has greatly improved. Along with OPEN, we have introduced an Anti-Corruption Index (ACI). Through this index we evaluate the level of integrity of each administrative unit and make the result public on an annual basis. The city administration actively involves citizens in its various anti-corruption activities. The Seoul City also operates a citizen ombudsman system as well as various channels of direct communication between citizens and the mayor. We have recently introduced an ‘Integrity Pact’, which aims at preventing corruption and any irregularities in the area of public procurement. In the last two years, we believe that significant progress has been made. Due to the combined efforts, the city is no longer called pandemonium. 1 Kang, Hong-Bin, Cleaning up the City Government of Seoul: A Systematic Approach, in press, Manila, Asian Development Bank (in cooperation with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development), 2001. THE PAPER We at the City Hall feel that significant progress has been made in its anti-corruption campaign since the incumbent administration took office two years ago. This is not to say that all unethical, improper, inappropriate behaviour have completely disappeared. But I can say with confidence that a drastic change is taking place in the city government, which only until recently had been labelled 'Pandemonium', the unholy gathering house of bureaucratic corruption and irregularities. The Seoul Metropolitan Government is now looked at as a model case of ethical reform in Korea; many of its anti-corruption measures are eagerly emulated by other governmental authorities, both national and local. Opinion polls show that the citizens feel that things are turning towards a positive direction, that the city hall has become definitely cleaner. International society, including the Transparency International, has recognized Seoul's determination and innovative approach to battle against corruption. No longer is the unhappy nickname of Pandemonium heard in connection with the City Hall. What has made this drastic change possible? And, why was there widespread bureaucratic corruption in the first place? As it is well known, Korea achieved the "Miracle on the Han River" out of the rubble of war in a short span of 30 years. The authoritarian state planned and managed this 'condensed' development. In the process it took in its hand the total control of resource allocation. The state control of the market led to collusion between the political power and the economic elite. To make things worse, the past governments, lacking political legitimacy and popular support, relied on illicit funds and docile bureaucrats to stay in power. Rampant political and bureaucratic corruption was the inevitable result. This explains why previous anti-corruption efforts remained ineffectual. There were periodical all-out campaigns, especially when the regimes changed hands. Purging of wrongdoers in the government and business was more of a ritual than anything of substance. While unethical conduct was attributable largely to structural causes within the system, the government tended to focus on individual irregularities, turning a blind eye to the system itself. A wholesale surgery of the system was in need, which in turn called for a change in circumstances and leadership in the government. The preconditions for such change presented themselves, as the growth-oriented, state-managed structure proving incapable of adjusting to the needs of the changing times and collapsed in the face of the globalizing world economy. The present city administration began its tenure when the country was deep in the crisis that resulted in the IMF management of the economy. When Mr. Goh Kun won a landslide victory in the mayoral election in the summer of 1998 - six months after reform minded KIM Dae-jung took the presidency, factories and business firms were closing down in multitudes, the unemployed and homeless were growing in number everyday, and mushrooming citizen groups were challenging the authority of government. The new leadership was faced with the gargantuan task of rebuilding the economy while providing emergency relief to the needy. To tackle the task effectively, it was imperative to reshape the bureaucracy to become more economic, efficient and ethical, that is to say, more responsive and transparent. From the very first day of taking office, Mayor Goh began to restructure the city government. This reform progressed at great speed and on a great scale. In just two years, the mammoth city organization has been streamlined to four fifths of its former size, the number of city employees was reduced by 20%, while more outside professionals were brought in to raise expertise. Privatization and out-sourcing have also been actively implemented. At the same time, an all-out effort was initiated to enhance ethical performance of the city government, to recreate it as "transparent as crystal". In contrast to the previous administrations, Mayor Goh's team approached corruption from a systematic perspective. The new emphasis was to create an administrative system that effectively eliminates the cause of corruption and prevents unethical behaviour. To this end, we decided to pursue simultaneously four major lines of action: preventive measures, punitive measures, increased transparency in administration, and enhanced public-private partnership. Foremost among the preventive measures is deregulation. Radical deregulation was carried out, abolishing and revising 80% of regulations that were unduly confining. As an old saying goes, "stagnant water breeds disease." A public official assigned to one place for an extended period of time may develop a patron-customer relationship in his or her jurisdiction. This cozy relationship often breeds corruption. We have introduced two radical measures to eliminate potential collusion. First, the long-standing practice of assigning jurisdiction over a specific area to one individual was abolished in the fields of permits, approvals and inspections. Officials are now assigned on a daily basis to handle applications submitted from different areas. Second, a personnel reshuffle on a massive scale was carried out across 25 district offices. Some 4,000 officials were transferred, the largest move in the city's history. In baseball, a batter is called out after three strikes. In Seoul, city officials are punished for every single wrongdoing. To ensure the principle of 'zero tolerance' for corruption, we have introduced a direct reporting system to the Mayor. Once every month, questionnaires are sent to those who have business with the city government in fields prone to corruption. They are requested to mail the questionnaire cards directly back to the Mayor with any information of wrongdoing. The Mayor personally reads all the postcards and makes sure that each and every wrongdoer is properly punished. As Benjamin Franklin remarked, sunshine is the best disinfectant, and transparency the most effective corruption deterrent. We have developed the ‘Online Procedures Enhancement for Civil Applications’ that makes completely open and transparent those administrative practices vulnerable to corruption. This system, more commonly known as OPEN, allows the public to monitor the process of their applications through the Internet. With real-time information available to everyone, officials cannot sit on a case without justifiable reason or make arbitrary decisions. Open record of all stages of administrative procedure eliminates the need for personal contact with a particular official. It does away with the so-called express fees. Without making telephone calls or visits, citizens can monitor the processing of their civil applications through the Internet whenever they want and wherever they are. Since the OPEN system was implemented in April last year, the transparency and integrity of the Seoul Metropolitan Government has greatly improved. Thus, it is seen to be popular with the public and has gained much recognition from international organizations such as Transparency International, the World Bank, and the OECD. The national government has decided to adopt the system for all central government ministries as well as all levels of local governments. Along with OPEN, we have introduced an Anti-Corruption Index (ACI). Through this index we evaluate the level of integrity of each administrative unit and make the result public on an annual basis. Seoul's ACI is calculated on the basis of opinion polls of those who actually submitted civil applications. We published the first result of an ACI evaluation at the end of the last year. It attracted wide public attention, and created much uproar from the districts with low ratings - an uncomfortable but inevitable and fully expected reaction. The city administration actively involves citizens in its various anti-corruption activities. Last year, 4,000 volunteer citizens took part in the inspection of bars, nightclubs and Karaoke establishments, which are suspected of illegal practices. The Seoul City also operates a citizen ombudsman system as well as various channels of direct communication between citizens and the mayor. Examples of the latter include: hot lines, e-mail, and the 'Mayor's Saturday Date with Citizens' program. We have recently introduced an ‘Integrity Pact’, which aimed at preventing corruption and any irregularities in the area of public procurement. The IP Ombudsmen, appointed by the Mayor in accordance with the recommendation of civil organization, has been monitoring the process of the IT implementation; submitting bids, contracting, implementing contracts. As was noted in an OECD report, controlling corruption is as complex as the phenomenon of corruption itself. In order for anti-corruption efforts to be effective, one must look beyond individual corrupt behaviour and focus on the structural causes that allow corruption to develop. Thus, we at the Seoul Metropolitan Government have adopted a systematic approach. Our intention is to cut corruption at its source and create an environment where it cannot take hold. To this end, we have endeavored to strengthen transparency mechanisms and thereby opened operations of the government to public scrutiny. We are quantifying ethical performance of departments and districts so as to induce the entire administrative units to enter into a benign competition to improve their ethical standings. We are actively making use of information technology as a crucial tool to guarantee openness and comparability of performances. Several factors may be cited to have contributed to the success of our efforts. First of all, there was the strong and able leadership committed to the cause. Second, there was widespread pressure from citizen groups which aided Seoul's reform actions. Third, information technology came to be widely used, enabling instant and two-way communication between the government and the citizens. The strong leadership together with the growing citizen empowerment and the wide use of information technology were vital in Seoul's successful fight against bureaucratic corruption. But these three factors alone would not have been enough. There had to be a catalytic momentum that prompted a total reshuffling of old pervasive systems and practices, offering the condition for the three factors to become effective. The IMF crisis provided the catalyst. It forced government, businesses and society to shed the bubbles and improper conventions inherited from the past growth oriented era. It urged them to adopt more effective, efficient and transparent practices to keep pace with global standards. The chronic alliance between politics and business was seriously challenged. In sum, the crisis provided an impetus to move Korean society quickly toward democracy and a market economy led by the private sector. The new city administration of Seoul seized the opportunity and mobilized resources and energy to make major reforms including cleaning up the bureaucracy. In the last two years, we believe that significant progress has been made. Although there is still a long way to go, we are confident that we are in control of the situation and the initial inertia will carry us to our goal. As the Korean saying goes, making a start is work half done. The Author Dr. Hong-Bin Kang, Vice-Mayor of the Seoul Metropolitan Government, was formerly President of the Seoul Development Institute. He has held senior positions in universities and local government.