[FOUNTAIN]Watch out: They’ve got a little list

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[FOUNTAIN]Watch out: They’ve got a little list

Which of the following lists have not been made public?
1. Sex offenders against minors.
2. Military draft evaders.
3. Students and their parents who bribed university officials for admission.
4. Real estate speculators.
5. Major tax delinquents.
The answer is “none of the above.” Lists of people in all five categories have been made public in the past.
In the early ’80s, the government released a list of smokers of foreign cigarettes. It has made lists of extravagant spenders, of households violating the “simplified family rite standards” and of luxury sedan owners who ignored the campaign to discourage driving every 10th day. The government has even threatened to release lists of customers at nightclubs or barbershops that were fronts for brothels.
In 1989 and 1990, the National Tax Service unveiled a list of real estate speculators. But because critics called the move excessive and an infringement on privacy, the list included only last names, ages, genders and districts of residence. This passive gesture left it to journalists to fully identify the speculators. Reporters covering the tax service effectively collaborated in tracking down the rich and famous and their family members.
One of the accused later proved his innocence. He sued the government for defamation, and won. In the case of the illegal college admissions, in 1993, it was later found that the Ministry of Education’s list included students admitted through computer error, not bribery. But one victim’s engagement was broken off.
In the United States, lists of sex offenders against minors have been made public. This effectively alienates these criminals from the community. But the disclosures in Korea were often motivated by the social mood, or exploited to distract the public from administrative shortcomings.
The National Tax Service plans to release a list of major tax delinquents in September. The tax service notified the delinquents in advance, and 51 paid tax debts totalling 14.1 billion won ($12.2 million). The agency is proud of this, but in effect, it is admitting that it is not capable of collecting back taxes by the usual means. In the 21st century, the tax agency has revived a tactic from the ’70s. What has the National Tax Service been doing all these years?

by Lee Se-jung

The writer is an editorial writer for the JoongAng Ilbo.
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