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Yoon doubles down on corruption fight

March 30, 2023 - 15:36 By Choi Si-young
President Yoon Suk Yeol speaks during the Summit for Democracy in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)

Corruption erodes freedom, putting democracy at greater risk, President Yoon Suk Yeol said Thursday, at a meeting South Korea co-hosted to bolster ties among global democracies against authoritarian rule.

The speech -- given in person on the second day of the Summit for Democracy, a two-day US-led gathering that started Wednesday with a videoconference of world leaders -- marks South Korea’s latest push to rally behind US efforts to regroup democracies in the Indo-Pacific region against a more assertive China.

Representing the Indo-Pacific region, Seoul is one of four countries that co-hosted the event, alongside the Netherlands, Zambia and Costa Rica, representing Europe, Africa, and Central and South America, respectively.

“To give back the international community what South Korea received in the past, we will push for a new initiative,” Yoon said at the Shilla Seoul, dubbing the plan as the “Shared Vision for Democracy and Prosperity.” It aims to aid countries in need of financing tools -- digital and non-digital -- as they fight corruption. One hundred million dollars has been earmarked for the three-year project, according to Yoon.

The South Korean leader added that “corrupted individuals twist and paralyze decision-making at the national level.” Yoon, a former top prosecutor, previously led high-profile bribery investigations -- including the one involving former President Park Geun-hye, who was impeached and removed from office for corruption.

Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Park Jin said in a separate speech Thursday that the meeting lays the groundwork for adopting what he called the “Seoul Declaration.”

“The Seoul Declaration embodies our shared resolve to prioritize the fight against corruption and reaffirm our commitment to the democratic values we cherish.”

Seoul will also host next year’s summit but whether it will be the host or a co-host is still under discussion. Washington launched the meeting in December.