It seems that there is no end to corruption in South Korea. As business leaders are being investigated for alleged illegal payment of campaign funds to politicians, an unlikely name was implicated in an alleged corruption scandal. IBM Korea, a subsidiary of the world-renowned computer maker, was said to have been involved in a massive bribery and unfair trading case. According to prosecutors, it paid kickbacks to government agency officials to win contracts to supply the firms with computers. South Korean computer manufacturers were also allegedly paid by IBM Korea in return for helping the company win the contracts. A former IBM Korea official has been arrested, while about a dozen others at the company - as well as at government agencies and computer makers - were indicted. IBM Korea has apologised, and sacked all the officials linked to the case. But the reputation of the company, which won several awards in South Korea for its ethical management, has been seriously damaged. If the allegations prove to be true, then the action of IBM Korea officials was certainly wrong. But what is worse is the structure of South Korean society and the economy, which constantly invites corruption. Many executives complain that it is hard to do business without breaking laws or paying bribes. They cite the country's regulation-oriented bureaucrats as the main culprits. Occasionally, there are campaigns by bureaucrats to try to clean up the situation. Corruption-free officials in Singapore are often cited as role models and their behaviour is studied by South Korean experts. But it seems to have yielded little progress. At the top, among ministers and their deputies, there is little room for corruption, as they are constantly monitored by regulators. The problem is among the low-ranking officials who deal with the public on a daily basis. Businesspeople, and others, complain that the degree of corruption among these officials remains the same, despite years of vigorous anti-graft government campaigns. Another major factor is the political community. To win an election, candidates have to spend large sums on mobilising supporters for campaign rallies and buying meals and providing junkets and gifts to voters. It is no surprise, therefore, that so many representatives of the National Assembly are kicked out when their illegal campaign-financing practices are revealed after their victory. Some business leaders who were summoned and questioned over the alleged recent illegal campaign financing complain that they paid politicians out of fear of retaliation - not because they sought favours in return for the money. Saddled with bureaucrats and politicians who constantly demand money from businesspeople, South Korea will never be able to attract foreign investors in large numbers. It is no coincidence that last year, foreign direct investment fell, for the fourth consecutive year, to US$6.5 billion, down 29 per cent from 2002 and more than 50 per cent from the peak of 1999.