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When speaking about corruption in government, Goh Kun loves to quote the American statesman and inventor Benjamin Franklin: "The best disinfectant is sunshine." Goh, the mayor of Seoul, has been shedding his own light on the South Korean capital's bureaucracy. His dispenser: the Internet.
At the center of Goh's administrative reform is the so-called Online Procedure Enhancement for civil applications, known as the OPEN system. Whether a citizen applies for a permit to build an office building or start a trash-removal service, he or she can electronically track the application's path through the bureaucracy and see the information in real time. "Free access to all stages of administrative procedures eliminates the need for personal contact with officials and for the paying of `express fees,"' Goh says, using a slang term for bribes.
Goh's system has been a huge success. According to public surveys, corruption in the city of 10 million is way down. Other Asian cities are looking at the OPEN system, and the U.N. is translating the OPEN manual into six languages.
The son of a scholar-turned-opposition politician, Goh, 63, joined the civil service in the 1960s. He served as Prime Minister in 1997-1998, and soon after ran successfully for Seoul mayor. Goh has always crusaded against corruption. He even offers an old Korean saying to match Franklin's: "Only when the upper reaches of a stream are clean will the lower reaches be clean."