[EDITORIALS]Protect privacy of businessesA few days ago, the central government announced the revision bill of the law so that the National Tax Service and other tax authorities may review financial transaction information of potential real estate speculators.
Currently, the National Tax Service can request information only from a certain branch of a financial company used by a speculator.
However, starting from the end of July, the agency will be able to review all transaction information from the head branch of the financial company.
This measure is convenient for authorities looking for speculators but it also undermines the basic principle of the law that regulates financial transactions.
The law can be maintained only if the privacy of financial transaction is assured, and that is why it requires a warrant issued by the court before authorities are allowed to review financial records.
The government said it would allow the release of such records only when one does not fully disclose all transactions or submits false documentation in cases of real estate transactions that exceed 500 million won ($427,000).
However, the tax authorities should not be allowed to make judgments about false evidence. If financial records of a businessperson can be reviewed at will, it could lead to an abuse of power. Information gleaned from reviewing financial records could be used for other purposes.
Also, there’s no mechanism to prevent such abuses. Under the rationale of suppressing real estate speculation, this modification of the law is a convenient way to easily find financial transaction information.
Administrative bodies have been tempted before to use their powers to track accounts. The Fair Trade Commission has demanded the revival of these powers in order to inquire into illegal internal transactions.
But the reason why this is no longer allowed is because it led to adverse effects. Giving the authorities such free rein to snoop into records would be detrimental to privacy concerns.
This new revision is no exemption. There must be rational standards so that the abuse of powers does not occur.