Measuring Corruption as a Threat to International Security: An Emerging Indicator for Enhancement of Global Corruption Governance

The conceptual changes to international security after the end of the Cold War, and particularly those following the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001, clarified the symbiotic relationship between corruption and international security: Corruption destroys the social political environment required to create human security and to ensure safety from terrorist attacks, and national borders increasingly fail to restrain its negative consequences. To achieve human security though policy intervention in domestic affairs, global corruption governance relies on numerical indicators that measure corruption. By evaluating states through public comparison, indicators pressure states to improve their domestic institutions and structures to align them with the international legal regime against corruption. However, existing indicators, including the Corruption Perceptions Index and Control of Corruption, have serious deficiencies that precipitate strong criticism from scholars and practitioners. This article suggests that the objective numerical measurement of “Corruption (0703),” one of the statistical measurements under the International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes (ICCS) of United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), is an emerging indicator that can enhance global corruption governance by supplementing or substituting existing indicators which are subjective numerical measurement of corruption. The significance of corruption as a threat to international security, not simply to international business, thus increases the absolute gains of Corruption (0703). Therefore, it is vital that states utilize and comply with Corruption (0703). For this recommendation to be persuasive, however, the following three questions must be answered. Does Corruption (0703) have the qualities necessary to exert pressure on states by negatively impacting their power in a way that existing indicators cannot? Can states, which are both the subjects and objects of the Corruption (0703) measurement, realistically comply with it, and will they do so? How can the problem of state cheating to achieve a more favorable score be overcome? To answer these questions, this article contemplates distinct characteristics of corruption between domestic criminal law and international agreements, and ultimately adopts the approach of neo-liberals, who prioritize absolute gain over relative gain and are thus optimistic about the potential for international organization and cooperation in implementing and enforcing this metric. In addition, this article often refers to the Republic of Korea as a case study because it has reached the most advanced stage of ICCS implementation.