July 30, 2015:
In early July 2015 South Korea prosecutors announced that an anti-corruption investigation begun in late 2014 had already led to the prosecution of 63 senior government people. Most were charged with procurement corruption, long a known problem in South Korea (and throughout East Asia) but until now only attacked piecemeal when a senior official was caught in some blatant act of bribery or theft. The 2014 investigation was different as it went after a long (and growing) list of officials that were suspected (because of tips or suspicious behavior) of corrupt acts. Among the 63 now being prosecuted are ten current or retired generals, a former vice minister and two retired heads of the navy. The procurement items involved include things like body armor, small arms and equipment for warships.
One thing that kept this investigation going was a pledge by a recent prime minister to really do something about corrupting. But in March 2015 that man (Lee Wan Koo) was forced to resign when it was revealed that he was involved in past corrupt acts. This came about because corruption investigators came across his name while examining documents seized from a corrupt official already being investigated. Lee Wan Koo is now facing prosecution for past payments he accepted from a now deceased businessman. The fact that the corruption reaches this high is one reason why a serious effort to prosecute all the guilty and put a stop to these practices has been so difficult. South Koreans are waiting to see how many of the senior people being prosecuted are convicted and jailed. That has happened a few times in the recent past, but never on a scale sufficient to reduce the corrupt activity.
Every East Asian nation has these problems and many are, like South Korea, making serious efforts to suppress the corruption. China, Japan, Taiwan and several others are hard at it but the long term impact won’t be known until the 2020s, or later.