Agency to get tougher on officials

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Agency to get tougher on officials

The country’s anticorruption agency said yesterday it will toughen its crackdown on public officials involved in irregularities as part of efforts to root out corruption in the public sector and to regain people’s trust.

Under the bill proposed by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC), government officials caught accepting more than 1 million won ($883) in bribes will face punishment of up to three years in prison or fines of up to five times the kickbacks received.

The rule will be applied regardless of whether officials accept the money for favors with strings attached, the ACRC said.

The draft, tentatively named the “Anti-Corruption and Conflicts of Interests Act,” will also put civic servants who grant favors dealing with their duties behind bars for up to two years or fine them 20 million won.

Public officials are also supposed to flatly reject any illegal requests, and in case of repeated soliciting, they can report the case to the chief of their respective agency, according to the bill.

“The proposal aims to prevent primary factors of irregularities in the first place, instead of focusing only on uncovering and seeking punishment after the facts, which will help public officials regain confidence,” an ACRC official said.

A barrage of criticism has mounted over widespread and chronic corruption in public offices in South Korea, as it has seen a series of high-ranking officials come under investigation on such charges. An ACRC survey last year showed that some 56.7 percent of 1,400 citizens regard civil servants as corrupt.

“The draft details restrictions in more comprehensive terms, and also puts forth detailed norms of behaviors required for public officials,” he added.

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