[EDITORIAL] Political Cooperation We Don't NeedUnconcerned with the scathing looks they are getting from all quarters, legislators of both the ruling and opposition camps appear ready to pass a watered-down version of a bill aimed at preventing money laundering.
The bill specifies restrictions on and punishments for hiding illegally acquired wealth but makes exceptions for political funds and money accumulated through tax evasion. The lawmakers are being criticized as trying to protect their own personal interests by excluding illegal political funds. Although there were some members of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee who opposed diluting the bill, on this issue the ruling party and the opposition are uncharacteristically of one mind, and it seems only a matter of time before the bill is passed into law in a full session of the National Assembly. We are appalled at the bald-faced shamelessness of both sides, who normally bicker and wrangle over every little thing but have suddenly become bosom buddies in the face of a threat to their communal gravy train.
A bill proposing a law to prevent money laundering was first introduced in the Assembly in 1997 in the wake of the Hanbo scandal, but the bill was automatically thrown out when legislators avoided deliberating on it. At that time, political funds were among the items to be regulated,
but last year when the administration decided to eintroduce the bill, political funds and tax evasion were dropped. The government's explanation is that ihillegal political funds were left out because they can be treated as bribery under the regulations of Political Fund Act and the Act on the Aggravated Punishment, etc. of Special Crimes,ln but we cannot shake off the feeling that political pressure was brought to bear here.
For their part, the two political camps excuse the exception by claiming that ihpolitical funds are of a different nature from money acquired through such inhumane and antisocial means as drug dealing and organized crime.le The opposition camp has added the claim that such activities
as tracking bank accounts could be misused to suppress political activity.
In view of the fact that political interests seem to be at the center of every big corruption scandal, that is a weak argument. Organized drug-trafficking operations may be the main money launderers in other countries, but in Korean society,most money laundering has involved slush funds
and lobbying payoffs flowing from the corporate sector into political pockets. In fact, the circulation of dirty money resulting from the cozy relations between politics and business is the major form of chronic crime that plagues our country.
Making political funds transparent by cutting off channels of illegal money flow should be one of our first orders of business if we are to get ourselves off the list of the most corrupt nations. Yet in spite of this shame, the politicians are trying to keep those illegal money channels open by subverting the substance of the legislation, which amounts to a reversal of political reform.
The assertion that political funds can be adequately regulated through the application of laws already on the books is out of touch with reality.
Haven't political funds that are highly suspect been ignored in public prosecutors' recent investigations on the grounds that nothing was given in return for the money? As long as illegal political funds exchange hands, corporate doctoring of financial records will be inevitable and politicians will not be able to clean up their act and get out of bed with business. This is not just a political matter, but one that affects economic reform as well. How can we expect to succeed in reforming other fields if we let this one go?