Deserved punishmentsSeveral Seoul metropolitan councilors have been found guilty of receiving bribes from the chairman of the council, Kim Gui-hwan, who was sentenced to 18 months in prison by the Seoul Central District Court for his role in the scandal.
Four council members who received 2 million won ($1,500) to 5 million won each got suspended sentences and were ordered to pay fines.
Some 20 council members who received around 1 million won were ordered to pay between 600,000 to 800,000 won in fines.
The rulings will be confirmed after the Supreme Court’s decision, but five council members who received prison or suspended sentences are expected to lose their jobs.
All of those charged deserve jail time for the crimes they committed. But the court has to abide by the principle of legality and has made the right judgment.
Those who escaped relatively lightly should consider themselves lucky and should spend time seriously reflecting on what they did.
Even though only Kim was sentenced to imprisonment, what other people involved in this caper did was just as shameful.
In the course of the trial, they harassed the court and by all reports acted as if they were on a picnic. It doesn’t seem likely that they will faithfully conduct their duties for the rest of their terms. Inside and outside the council, it is expected that those who are likely to lose their posts will continue as council members until the Supreme Court’s verdict is released.
This scandal is an embarrassing self-portrait of our society, one that depicts the backwardness of our grassroots democracy. The Seoul metropolitan council can’t be the only corrupt place in the city. Yesterday we discovered that owners of entertainment establishments had used sex to bribe Jung District council members in Seoul.
The election system must be changed so that corruption in local councils is finally eradicated. Under the current system, the political parties’ nominations are decisive, so candidates try to please only the constituencies’ lawmakers.
But it is those who were nominated and elected thanks to their networks, not based on their ability, who committed these wrongs.
What we need is a system that increases the number of proportional representatives in metropolitan councils and for voters to remain alert. Voters must remember all these people involved in the bribery and pass judgment on them in the next election.