Close the book on partiesLee Jae-oh, a Grand National lawmaker, is one of the closest aides to President-elect Lee Myung-bak. He will be a core member of the new administration. Lee Jae-oh was recently appointed as the leader of a mission to Russia as he is deeply trusted by the president-elect. But the lawmaker had a party to celebrate the publication of his book in the small town of Mungyeong, North Gyeongsang, on Saturday. The event was attended by several thousands, including lawmakers from Seoul, local district heads and citizens. It is legal to hold an event to celebrate a book. But there are things to think about here because it was Lee Jae-oh who hosted the event.
Throwing a party to celebrate a book publication is an easy way for a lawmaker to raise funds. The law about political funds was revised in 2004 so lawmakers were prohibited from holding events to raise funds. Companies are prohibited from making donations to politicians. But there are no regulations on raising money with a party to celebrate a book publication. One does not need to report to the National Election Commission about it, and the commission doesn’t monitor such events, either. Politicians can have book publication parties until 90 days before legislative elections. This year, the last date is Jan. 10, so there are many events of this kind these days. However, some say the custom must be changed to make political fund-raising more transparent.
Lawmaker Lee is regarded as one of the most reform-minded people in the Grand National Party. He earned trust from his constituency because of his humble lifestyle. He did not raise any suspicions or create any problems regarding money. He should be a leading figure to get rid of book publication ceremonies. As he is a core figure of the new administration, everybody pays close attention to what he says or does. If he does something right in front of everybody, he will have a strong influence. An aide to Lee explained that 2,000 books were sold for 10,000 won ($11) each at the party and there was no additional fund-raising. Nonetheless, such a powerful person of influence should set a good example.
The venue for the party was also controversial. He held the event in Mungyeongsae-jae, an area related to the President-elect’s cross-Korea canal in a bid to draw attention to the project. But the artificial waterway project must be dealt with in a calm setting such as a seminar, instead of a large public gathering. Core political figures must be prudent and set a good example.