Korean National Council of Women Spearheads Anti-Corruption Campaign:
Ceremony to Recognize and Encourage “Clean Women Politicians”
The Korean National Council of Women (President Kim, Jung-sook) successfully held the Anti-corruption Campaign Ceremony to help in the creation of a cleaner, more transparent, society. The ceremony took place at the Press Conference Room of the Press Center (19F) in Seoul at 2pm on June 25, 2014.
Some 200 women leaders from various fields, as well as officers of member organizations, participated. Insightful and objective discussions ensued, with a decidedly practical orientation concerning how to bring about transformation of the existing social and political environment. Transition from cultural norms and practices which are tacitly tolerant of corruption to a “cleaner” reality was examined under the theme “The Role of Women in Creating a Culture of Corruption Intolerance”.
Receiving special attention at this symposium was a ceremony to acknowledge exceptional civil servants who might be called “Clean Women Politicians.” These women were identified from the results of a nationwide survey focusing on corruption: sample size 4,000, conducted in April and May, 2014. Each recipient was awarded the “Plaque of Transparency” as a symbol of their commitment to an honest and open political system.
Recipients of the Plaque of Transparency award were Congresswoman Kim, Eul-dong; Congresswoman Kim, Hee-jung; Congresswoman Sim, Sang-jung; Congresswoman Yoo, Seung-hee; Chief of Pusan Jung-ku Office Kim, Eun-sook; Chief of Pusan Sasang-ku Office Song, Sook-hee; Assemblywoman of Jangheung-kun Jonnam Kim, Bok-sil; and Assemblywoman of Kangjin-kun, Jonnam Moon, Chun-dan. Following the awarding of plaques, there was a brief ceremony where further commitments to the principle and practice of transparency could be made.
Following the ceremony to honor clean women politicians, Chairwoman Kim, Hyun-sook of the Korean National Council of Women presided over the presentation of several scintillating papers and ensuing discussions. First, Professor Lee, Jong-soo (Yonsei University) presented a paper on “the Path to a Clean Society”. He analyzed patterns of corruption and their deleterious effect in the context of the desired evolution of contemporary Korean politics. Various statistics were cited as well as some of the results of a major national survey on corruption. Professor Lee contended that “Excessive regulation and intervention by the government has, in fact, acted to encourage corruption-- the deficiencies in institutional practice to punish corrupt individuals, as well as to prevent corrupt behavior in the first place, actually nurtures corrupt behavior thus creating a kind of vicious circle. A prevalent disregard for what is truly in the public's best interest and the widespread practice of bribery are among the root causes of corruption.” To underscore his point, he went on to state “the government has in place diverse laws and regulations, such as the Act to Prevent Corruption and the Act to Protect the Informants for Public Interest, but their effectiveness is severely limited due to the disparity between institution and reality,” and concluded, “In order to effectively end the vicious circle of corruption and move toward a more transparent society, citizen’s organizations, the media, academicians, and politicians should all assume responsible and active roles in continuously raising the agenda, in reviewing and publicizing cases, in presenting findings regarding the causes of, and prescription for, corruption, and in formulating and implementing legislation and policies which can reform and improve relevant institutions.”
President Cho, Eun-kyung (EK Ethics and Knowledge Research Institute) continued with an analysis of certain findings of this year's “Survey on Citizen’s Attitudes Towards Corruption”. She stated, “The citizens participating in the survey were aware that the level of (anti-corruption) transparency in Korean society is low due to the diverse nature and composition of corruption-- insensitivity to corruption, nepotism in the over-valuing of school connections and local connections, irrational laws and dysfunctional institutions”. Most urgent, indicated many respondents, was the need to eradicate corruption in politics. There was general agreement with the notion that the more women there are in politics, the more transparent Korean society would become. Cho concluded by contending that diverse and active roles assumed by women would promote a political culture more intolerant of corruption and lead to far greater transparency in political and social activities.
President Lee, Sang-soo (Korea Public Trust Research Institute) in his presentation “the Role of Women in Expanding Practical Clean Culture” indicated that women in Korea are instrumental in helping to create what might be called “clean culture” for a number of reasons. First, it is important to recognize that the role of women in virtually all fields is growing rapidly, as is the level of social participation of women. Women, Lee claimed, tend to be less affected by the corruption chain because they are generally freer than men from the impact of social networking which often results in heightened levels of nepotism and paternalism. He also said, “In order to promote transparency and cleanness, necessary requirements include: strengthening capabilities to allow for effective internal audits, developing strategies and building foundations for diverse corruption control systems, strict implementation of such systems, and heightened public awareness of the merits of transparency through various education campaigns.” He emphasized that education such as this is essential for clean consciousness to become internalized rather than assuming the form of some abstract principle. Lee concluded by stating “Clean education is the optimal means of promoting transparency as it is not only cost effective but is also one of the most powerful tools to ensure future transparency in Korea. Special sensitivity and a tendency toward a more gentle leadership posture among women would likely be beneficial traits in transition toward, and maintenance of, a clean system. Women who wish to advance to positions of social and political leadership must therefore embrace the notion of clean education in thought and in action.”
President Joo, Junhui (Women’s Institute for Negotiation & Leadership) indicated in her presentation on “Women’s Role in Expanding Clean Culture,” that there is a pressing need for a broad-based social movement to promote transparency and raise ethical standards in society. Such a movement must work in tandem with the development of laws and institutions designed to combat corruption. She pointed out various elements of contemporary Korean culture that might be seen as corruption-friendly -- collectivism, emphasis on relationship over justice, and existence of societal norms that seem to hold excessive regard for entertainment. Dr. Joo emphasized the role of women as mothers and wives in creating clean culture. She said, “The role of woman as mother carries special importance in developing clean culture because of a mother’s efforts in teaching her children right from wrong. This message, the distinction between two opposing values, between two courses in life, must have lasting impact on a child's world view and on how the child will eventually choose to operate in that world. Likewise, a woman's role as wife can have a major impact on the social fabric of a nation-- a wife who extols the virtues of a simple, less materialistic, life may be sending a message to her husband which minimizes his consideration of corrupt alternatives in his behavior.” At a different level, she also contended that women who are less contaminated by corrupt political culture should advance into politics for a clean society to eventuate, and, furthermore, a 30% quota for women should be set in place in the cabinet, in the national assembly, and every other institution making important decisions in society.
Presentations were followed by a lively round of questions and answers. Chairwoman Oh, Kyung-ja (Law and Regulations Committee) contended: “External organizations should participate in the activities of the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea thus allowing a higher level of insularity in promoting movement toward a clean civil employees culture”. Professor Lee, Jong-soo agreed that it was very important to ameliorate what might, in kind terms, be called the stiff practices of civil servants. Clean culture is, to Professor Lee, an entirely worthy target.
In concluding the symposium, President Kim, Jung-sook of the Korean National Council of Women said, “It is reported in the cases of many advanced nations that the more women participate in politics and business, the more clean and transparent the society becomes. It is therefore important to increase women’s participation, and women themselves should be aware of the need for, and advantages of, a clean society. It is imperative that women take the initiative in making this goal come to pass.” She went on to say, “The Korea National Council of Women will initiate and execute activities necessary to expand the concept and practice of clean culture in the future. A pro-active special committee will be formed to attenuate corruption and to suggest implementation of, and modification of, relevant policies and institutions in a concerted effort to expand clean culture.” President Kim concluded the symposium by pledging that women, in response to a well constructed Plan of Action, will realize great success in the clean movement, thus proving that women can play yet another vital role in propelling the country to advanced nation status.