Stop golden parachutes

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Stop golden parachutes

The government finally decided to take action against the long-standing practice of golden parachutes in public office. President Lee Myung-bak called such a practice threatening to the government’s pursuit of a fair society. It is indeed paradoxical for a government to speak of a fair society when special treatment and re-employment opportunities await senior bureaucrats once they step out of public office.

The sprawling savings bank scandal that disclosed dirty associations among high-level government officials underscored how corrupt connections between businesses and bureaucrats can end up hurting the public. We can hardly have high expectations for the government and corporate communities back room, shady dealings.

The government came up with a set of regulations to stamp out the practice of golden parachutes. In addition to re-employment restrictions, it added limitations to business activities against former government officials who find a job in the corporate sector.

Under the new rules, a senior government official is disallowed from accepting corporate deals involving his or her past government office for one year before and after governmental employment. It also toughened screening procedures on officials accepting jobs at law or accounting firms, as well as outside board directors and advisors in private companies.

The aim is to prevent senior bureaucrats from turning into lobbyists immediately after joining a private company or a law firm. The toughened regulations will apply to 12 additional law firms and five accounting firms.

Officials at the Financial Supervisory Service subject to screening will be extended to fourth-grade level from current second-grade. The new rules appear to be hastily concocted amid the brewing controversy over the savings bank scandal, but nevertheless necessary.

Authorities must now supplement the regulations with punitive actions during the legalization process. They should toughen public ethics laws to penalize violators with a year prison sentence or a penalty of 10 million won ($9,284).

Public officials are free to choose their jobs after they leave office. But they must come to accept that golden parachutes are passe.

If they really thought about it, they would be able to come up with a number of other ways to make themselves useful in their post-government careers.

Their last public duty would be a contribution to a fairer society.
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