Bill gets tough on president’s men

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Bill gets tough on president’s men

The ruling Saenuri Party wants to establish a special surveillance system for corruption by the president’s relatives, aides and top government officials such as cabinet ministers, declaring there will be “no tolerance” for any misdeeds - even for people who use their influence without being bribed to do so.

Ahn Dae-hee, a former Supreme Court justice appointed to a party committee assigned to propose a bill to establish the new system, told reporters yesterday that the goal is to fundamentally root out corruption by political heavyweights. He said the bill would establish a strong, autonomous organization for a special surveillance system.

“The basic principle of wiping out corruption is a ‘no tolerance’ policy,” Ahn said. “From now on, if there’s anyone who approaches relatives or friends [of politicians], they will face huge risks. We should make sure that any government official who gives or receives kickbacks will not be able to maintain their positions. That’s the will of candidate Park Geun-hye, I think.”

The subjects of the surveillance will be relatives and close aides of the president, Ahn said, and some high-ranking government officials such as cabinet ministers and the chiefs of the National Intelligence Service, the National Tax Service, the National Police Agency and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

The subjects will be strictly banned from asking for favors from government officials in other offices, even if there is no bribe or kickback involved.

It isn’t illegal in Korea for a government official to do favors for someone involving another government office as long as he or she does not receive a bribe. People who try to bribe the monitored officials will be punished.

Proving bribery involving top government officials has been difficult in the past. Choi See-joong, a close aide to President Lee Myung-bak, has admitted that he received money from a private developer to help with government construction permissions but said it wasn’t a bribe.

The new law will appoint special investigators for the surveillance team, who will be regular government employees with three-year terms.

Ahn said lawyers with more than 15 years experience and university professors will be eligible, and they will have to be endorsed by the National Assembly.

The new bill will make it mandatory for the political bigwigs being monitored to use their real names on any contracts they sign. It will prohibit them from signing any contracts with state-run companies or organizations.

To monitor them effectively, the bill will grant the team the right to see personal bank accounts and phone records, Ahn said.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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