Kang Hee-rak was the chief of the National Police until half a year ago. He is known for strong emphasis on clean service of the entire 150,000 members of the force. Kang now faces arrest in connection with a lobbying scandal in which a catering service businessman bribed a large number of police officers, administration officials and politicians.
Yu Sang-bong, 65, who was indicted under arrest late last year on charges of defrauding operators of cafeterias at construction sites, has provided prosecution investigators with a long list of “influential people” he allegedly bribed to get their help in winning catering service contracts for workers on large-scale building sites. He used to make money by reselling the contracts to individual caterers.
Investigators are surprised by the extensive scale of Yu’s lobbing network, which included police commissioners, National Assemblymen and executives of construction firms. Officials used Yu in approaching higher officeholders for promotion while Yu maintained his “control” of the catering service business with the support of these officials. Police and local administration authorities have considerable influence over construction worksites with their power of anti-pollution and safety measures.
As the long-rumored chain of corruption was exposed through Yu’s investigation, names of police leaders, both active and retired, popped up. Besides Kang, prosecutors are planning to summon former Coast Guards commander Lee Kil-bom, the chiefs of Ulsan and Gwangju Metropolitan Police Agencies and about a score of other officers.
The National Police organization is visibly shaken. Junior officials are complaining that the corrupt seniors have sold their honor and their souls for dirty money from cafeteria operators. They are particularly frustrated at the loss of face in the perennial contest with the prosecution over the question of gaining independence in criminal investigations.
Problem is that Yu is just one of the species that thrive in our corruption-prone society, which is built on close-knit networks. The authorities should search for a second and third Yu but it will take quite some time to see their extinction.