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History of Korea's Anti-Corruption Policy

Before establishing an independent anti-corruption body (before 1990s)

After the Korean War which broke out in 1950, Korea showed a phenomenal economic growth rate of 7-8% annually for around 30 years from the 1960's with the start of industrialization and to the early 1990's. Its economic development model has been recognized as successful on the international stage, in that the country transformed itself from an ODA recipient to a donor country.

However, over the course of such a rapid economic growth, anti-corruption activities were not put in priority, with the government mainly focused on economic development. Of course there were government agencies responsible for controlling and punishing corruption, but they couldn't eradicate adverse effects such as the cozy-relationship between the government and businesses.

Laying ground for the anti-corruption system (mid-1990 ~ 2002)

In line with the global anti-corruption initiatives in the mid-1990's such as the OECD Anti-Bribery Convention, Korea also started to join the anti-corruption efforts by upgrading its systems across society in the face of the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis. The perception became pervasive among the public that the previous responses focusing on detection and punishment have limitations in eradicating corruption, thereby increasing the voices of civil society and the academia demanding the establishment of an independent anti-corruption agency and the anti-corruption legislation.

Against this backdrop, the "Anti-Corruption Act" was enacted in 2001 to prevent and effectively control corruption, and the "Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC)" was launched in 2002.

Full-blown anti-corruption activities (2002 ~ 2008)

With the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Act and the KICAC, the Korean government put a priority on preventing corruption and enhancing national integrity level, and began to upgrade anti-corruption systems nation-wide.

In addition, a two-pronged approach was promoted, one is focused on the prevention such as formulating government-wide anti-corruption policy, correcting corruption-prone institutions and laws, conducting integrity assessment, providing anti-corruption education and operating code of conduct for public officials, and the other is on the detection and the punishment, including receiving corruption reports and providing protection and reward for whistleblowers.

Anti-corruption system to protect people's rights and interests (2008 ~ )

In 2008, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission of Korea (ACRC) was launched, establishing a new type of anti-corruption system by integrating previous three functions of corruption prevention, administrative appeals and ombudsman which oversees illegal or unreasonable practices in the public sector. From the perspective of people, the integration of various channels for protecting their rights increased the accessibility and effectiveness of the system. In particular, the integration laid the foundation for creating synergistic effect between corruption prevention and protection of people's rights, given that the unfair performance of duty by public officials triggers corruption, complaints, and administrative appeals.

The ACRC introduced institutional improvement system for certain areas which are prone to corruption and complaints, and has continuously made efforts to address corruption issues that is deeply entrenched in our society, by implementing the "Act on the Protection of Public Interest Whistleblowers" and "Code of Conduct for Local Assemblymen", "Improper Solicitation and Graft Act" as well as by enacting the "Act on Prohibition of False Claims for Public Funds and Recovery of Illicit Profits" in 2019.