Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Daniel Y. Jun

First Page



On August 26, 1996, the criminal bribery convictions of two former South Korean Presidents sent shockwaves throughout the nation of South Korea. The court found former Presidents Chun Doo Hwan and Rof Tae Woo guilty of amassing hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes during their respective presidential terms. The court also found corporate executives of major Korean conglomerates guilty of bribing the former Presidents in exchange for government contracts or political favors. Such events invite a look into South Korea's difficult past, revealing a history of remarkable industrial progress tarnished by pervasive government corruption. This Note first explores South Korea's sociocultural and political history in order to assess the modern practice of bribery among public officials. The Note then analyzes the Korean antibribery laws and evaluates the legal machinery against corruption. The author determines that the poor enforcement of the antibribery laws allowed bribery to spread among public officials. Next, the author describes a theoretical model for optimal law enforcement, premised on efficiency, and applies its principles to the present context. In the process, the author proposes solutions to resolve the current problem of government corruption, emphasizing the need for optimal enforcement of the Korean antibribery laws. Although meaningful reform will be difficult to achieve, the author concludes that the laws against bribery can ultimately provide a government of integrity for South Korea.