[EDITORIALS]Stock ban is too draconianThe Ministry of Government Administration and Home Affairs announced a bill yesterday that would restrict civil servants’ stock portfolios. According to the provisions of the bill, senior civil servants and lawmakers, who are currently required to release data on their assets every year, would not be allowed to manage individual stock portfolios.
The intent is to preclude civil servants who decide on major national policies from being influenced by individual economic interests. Because there have been some suspicions that civil servants and politicians used secret information obtained because of their jobs to increase their wealth, the introduction of the bill is appropriate.
But the bill, sticking too much to its aim of fighting corruption, appears to have some practical problems. The bill will make senior civil servants who possess more than 50 million won ($43,000) of stocks sell the shares within one month after the enactment of the bill or entrust them to financial institutions that would have to sell the shares within two months. That is, civil servants have to dispose of all stocks they possess before they release their asset lists.
The measure will force civil servants who have businesses to give up their rights to run a company or to resign from their government positions. The bill infringes upon citizens’ right to properties and to become civil servants, both guaranteed by the Constitution.
Also, the bill prevents civil servants from holding unlisted shares. It is difficult to sell unlisted shares quickly.
The government emphasizes that the bill was formulated after considering similar measures being imposed in the United States and Canada. But transplanting a foreign system to Korea without carefully taking this nation’s peculiarities into consideration may cause bad side effects.
We believe some complements to the bill that would minimize the conflict between public and private interests are necessary. One measure would be to preclude civil servants who have to own stocks because they are part of their private businesses from being involved in any public work that could affect the interests of those businesses and to make public all information about them.