[EDITORIALS]Lawmakers’ rising fortunes

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[EDITORIALS]Lawmakers’ rising fortunes

The National Assembly’s ethics committee has made public its survey of lawmakers about their financial circumstances during the past year. Of the 294 legislators, 68 percent reported that their assets have gone up, by an average of 93 million won ($92,500). More than 65 percent of those lawmakers said their wealth increased by more than 100 million won.
It is said that last year’s economic difficulties were even worse than those during the foreign exchange crisis, but even under such circumstances, the lawmakers managed to increase their wealth. They certainly appear to be skilled in personal asset management.
The survey offers a clear contrast to the statistic that more than 30 percent of the nation’s households suffered from deficits last year. Given their rising wealth, the lawmakers probably had a difficult time understanding the hardships of ordinary people. We, of course, have no intention of criticizing them merely for getting richer.
Until recently, the governing party took the lead in calling for campaign finance laws to be revised. The lawmakers complained that the laws were too strict and made it impossible for them to continue their political activities. They said strict laws could encourage corruption, and fundraising ceilings should be raised and other restrictions changed. But the survey shows that almost 70 percent of the lawmakers managed to increase their wealth despite such hardships. So what are they complaining about? It would have been better if they had stayed quiet.
Even more surprising is the increase in wealth among members of the finance and economic committee, who monitor the government’s economic policies and draft laws governing finance. These 27 lawmakers said their assets increased by an average of 455 million won in the last year, which is 4.8 times the average increase. Most of them profited from real estate or stock investments. Because they have better access to information about the economy, and because they have the ability and the right to verify such information, we see this as a serious issue. Can they confidently say that their investments were fair and square?
There is no law barring lawmakers from getting richer. But they must never use their positions to do so. That is an abuse of power and a clear evasion of the law. The nation needs a system that at least bars lawmakers who handle economic legislations from making stock investments.
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