Sadly, South Korea is mired in a string of corruption scandals among the highest of the political elite. But happily, in South Korea the crooks are going to jail.
In other countries I can think of, such felons would be shot.
Or, they’d get the jump on everyone and shoot their accusers.
Or, they’d be on the midnight flight to Switzerland, their suitcases bulging with hastily-packed cash.
But not in South Korea. There, they investigate. Lay charges. Try the accused. And lock up the guilty. And the country remains a functioning democracy. No firing squads. No coups. No Disappeared Ones. Sounds like what we fought for almost 70 years ago in the Korean War.
Lee Myung-bak, a former president, has just been indicted on a series of graft charges involving ten million dollars in kickbacks from Samsung and other industrial giants. He is the fourth Korean leader to face such charges in the last two decades.
The latest South Korean high flyer to get locked up is its first female president, Park Geun-hye. She was convicted earlier this month on 16 charges of bribery, coercion and leaking confidential documents. She was sentenced to 24 years!
The South Koreans are not much into sentimentality when their leaders turn out to be financial gangsters.
It’s shameful of course that the public welfare ever was entrusted to such con artists.
But to its great credit, the South Koreans did not tolerate or cover up the criminality. And no one disappeared into secret police cellars. And no one got shot. Instead, there was law and trials.
Over a half century ago, we helped fight a war to keep communism at bay in South Korea … but also to give democracy a fighting chance. The trip has been long and winding. But the result is the fourth largest economy in Asia. And a country of laws and courts, not gulags and show trials.