&#91EDITORIALS&#93Let account tracing lapse

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[EDITORIALS]Let account tracing lapse

The Fair Trade Commission made public its draft for amending the fair trade law. The main point is extending the watchdog’s right to demand information on financial transactions for five years. The commission wants to keep the right, which allows it to trace financial transactions without a search warrant, after its expiration in February 2004.
The agency lately has shown an excessively strong will to strengthen its authority. It wants to retain the right to indict fair trade violators, extend the tracing right and, it is rumored, even exercise judicial power. The commission intends to have all rights in investigating businesses, including the selection of firms, the duration and method of investigation and punishment of violators.
The government effort to correct unfair practices and the distorted governance of corporations should continue. But it should not be allowed to exercise sweeping powers. The commission already has strong enough powers to investigate businesses. If it needs to trace account transactions, it can seek cooperation from the prosecution or the National Tax Service. The commission’s demand for tracing rights comes from egoism and bureaucratic expediency.
Account tracing is already overused; last year, some 250,000 accounts were traced by the government. This practice puts the real name financial transactions system, which guarantees the secrecy of transactions, in the shade. It was in this vein that the National Assembly limited the right when it was granted to the commission in 1999. Moreover, with the introduction of other legal curbs such as the class action lawsuit, the situation has changed. The commission’s tracing right must be discarded after its expiration.
In the first half of this year, Korean businesses earned only two-thirds of last year’s amount. They are depressed because of the struggle with “bourgeois labor,” endless political wrangling and opaque government policies. No more oppressive measures should be taken. Instead of strengthening its power, the agency should modernize its investigation techniques and enhance the efficiency of its personnel.
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