President Moon Jae-in recently called for all-out efforts to fight corruption in both the public and private sectors, noting graft may be limiting the country's growth potential.
The Republic of Korea is notorious for the world’s worst income gaps among the different strata of people. It is the highest among the member countries of the OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and development).
According to a report of OECD published on Yonhap on Sept. 26, 2015, the top 10% of the total population earned money that was nearly 10 times (9.6 times) of the average earnings of the lowest group of income earners.
The figures represented a deteriotion compared with the statistics of the 1980s when it was seven times.
The rich Korean, representing 1% of the total population of Korea, owned 18% of the total wealth of the Korean people. This poses a striking contrast with a picture where 40% of the Korean people had only 3% of the wealth of the nation.
What brought about this outstanding income gaps between the haves and havenots? Official corruption and graft involving the minority in the better-off social groups are considered to be among the primary causes.
President Moon said, "I am certain that our potential growth rate will increase when we establish justice in our society," the president said in the inaugural meeting of a new anti-corruption council held at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae.
"There is a saying that corruption turns everything into naught. Throughout history, great powers, economies and national securities lost their glory and collapsed due to corruption," he said, according to Cheong Wa Dae pool reports.
The President urged immediate efforts to first reform the government, insisting the country's transparency has backtracked under former governments.
"Over the past several years, we moved backward rather than moving forward to become a more transparent nation," Moon told the meeting.
"The power that should have been more transparent than any other and the public sector that should have been cleaner failed to come out of the swamp of corruption, with (those in power) squeezing the livelihood of the people through unjust and corruptive ways and wasted the people's tax money as if their own while executing state powers," he added.
Moon, however, also stressed the need to eradicate corruption in the private sector.
"Corruption in the private sector deteriorates the people's livelihood by destroying our social justice, and thus we will only be able to build a fair society with no cheating and no special privileges when we also remove deep-rooted corruption in the private sector," he said.