Wednesday, August 06, 2003

Corruption, corruption and more corruption

Finding myself idle last evening I briefly switched on the idiot box and found myself confronted with the blurb for the evening 'News Desk'. The top three stories: the funds-for-summit corruption scandal and the suicide of Chung Mong-hun, the Goodmorning City corruption scandal involving MDP leader Chyung Dai-chul, and unsurprisingly, a corruption scandal involving the President's personal secretary Yang Gil-seung. I wonder if corruption ratings of countries include the severity and prominence of those involved in corruption.

The leaders of a nation represent the people they lead, they also reflect to the world the kind of country/people they lead and the morals and values they uphold. The disturbing amount of systemic, high-level corruption in this country and the contempt and disregard shown by some of those under investigation should be provoking much more outcry than a bit of stunned mullet disbelieft about a suicide. All these affairs diminish respect of the entire nation and the people should be outraged on many levels but they should also reflect seriously about what to do to prevent this in the future.

On the international scene it seems six-way multi-lateral talks may actually occur. However, until they set a date and time I choose to remain even skeptical that it will pan out. Agreeing to the talks is one step but the obstacles are numerous. I have commented several times on my opinion of John Bolton, which is very similar to that of North Korea's opinion of him. After so much talking about holding talks JB decided to come to Seoul and publicly determine if he could possibly fit both his feet into his. Kudos to JB his big mouth easily gulped in both feet before an international audience. What will surely upstage this event though would be if US administration sent JB to be the man in the talks. Uncategorically if the US do that, it will prove beyond doubt that they WANT the talks to fail. Among their staff they have other qualified people who have proven themselves more diplomatic regarding the North issue. Many things could happen and the North has shown that it likes party games just as much as JB.

Talks are a good idea but these circumstances bode ill for any progress. Goodwill and mutual trust are lacking and they are the conditions of success for any talks. For this to occur, more time and care needs to be taken to build these things up before talks are even worthwhile (though I maintain that its better to be sitting at the table making no progress than to not be talking at all). For this, I think that the different opinions and roles of the countries in the multi-party talks could be a key. If they can cooperate than perhaps you could have the US and Japan being the force behind getting strong verification for any deal, you could have China and South Korea taking a greater role in offering the carrots and Russia acting in some ways as a mediator between both sides to help ensure a workable balance. We know that China and South Korea like offering support and aid so let them be the mechanisms for rewards. This would allow US to support a deal without actually being the ones 'rewarding' for good behaviour.

Could it work? I don't know, I am just waffling but they are my preliminary ideas on the situation. First, more time to build goodwill and trust, possibly by US just being quiet and China and South Korea continuing to offer aid and oil. Second, work out a deal that works within the boundaries of each countries differences and what they are willing to do so that carrots and sticks are offered through different channels but holistically forms a workable deal for all countries.

Currently reading:

"Hell" by Yasutaka Tsutsui