[EDITORIALS]Problematic ethics legislationThe National Assembly approved the Civil Service Ethics Act, which requires top civil servants to sell their stockholdings or use blind trusts. Under the legislation, lawmakers and top civil servants of grade one or higher should report theirs and their direct family members’ stockholdings to the blind trust commission by December.
The commission will have nine members, with three each appointed by the president, the National Assembly and the Supreme Court. The commission will judge whether civil servants’ stockholdings are related to their work, and if so, it will force them to sell or put the stocks in trust. The trust or asset management companies should sell the stocks within two months after receiving them from civil servants, according to the legislation.
The legislation was enacted to prevent civil servants from using insider information to increase their own wealth. But there have been constitutional disputes that forcing civil servants to sell their stocks infringes upon their property rights.
If the law limits or infringes upon civil servants’ due and legitimate right to acquire and use property just because they work for the government, then it may become an unjust law that discourages individuals with wealth from becoming civil servants. That is, wealthy people may be excluded from governmental positions and thus are subject to discrimination.
We, of course, understand the intent of the legislation, which is to prevent conflicts of interest and, if conflicts arise, to favor public interests over private interests. Still, the legislation needs to be complemented in that it may infringe upon individuals’ rights to property guaranteed in the Constitution. And if there is the possibility that civil servants are compelled to sell their stocks when their work is not related to their holdings, the legislation is problematic.
Allowing the commission to judge the relevancy of civil servants’ work to their stockholdings sounds dangerous. It is very likely that the commission’s judgment can be made arbitrarily.
We believe the judgment should be made not by each commissioner’s arbitrary interpretation but by a systemic framework. That is, the criteria to find out whether civil servants’ stockholdings are related to their work should also be included in the legislation. Otherwise, disputes will continue endlessly and it will be difficult to see the success of the new legislation.