Korea: May 8, 2004


A South Korean four star general, Shin Il Soon, was arrested on corruption charges. He was accused of taking $135,000 in "unit operation funds" while a division and corps commander in 1999. This is the first time a four star general on active duty has been arrested. Corruption in the officer corps goes back centuries, but has been largely eliminated during the 1990s as civilian control of the military, and democracy, were re-established. During that period, it became standard practice to regularly audit military expenditures. But this did not extend down to the unit operations funds, which were sort of a (large scale) petty cash account for special expenditures (parties for officers and troops, special events and emergencies). The arrest of general Shin sends the message that the government wants the officer corps to clean up their act still more. In the past few years, there have been many news stories about corruption and inefficiency in the military (and government and large corporations). American generals in Korea had long complained of the bad effects of the corruption, but it was all kept quiet so as not to upset the South Koreans. Similar corruption in North Korea exists, according to defectors, and is getting worse because of the collapsing economy and food shortages. There is no drive to clean up the corruption in the north. In fact, the North Korean government appears to be deliberately letting the corruption in the military get worse, as a way to keeping the army quiet. 


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