Cut the contaminated connections

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Cut the contaminated connections

The Constitutional Court upheld the validity of a legal clause prohibiting private-sector jobs to be given to retired government officials. Government employees have been protesting that the limit on their post-retirement job choices violates their constitutional rights.

The ruling justifies the government’s attempts to rein in ills from the tradition of gwanfia - a portmanteau of the Korean words for government official and mafia. The cycle of collusion between the public and private sector and senior government employees, who move on to high-paying jobs after leaving government, has been criticized for contributing to the disastrous sinking of Sewol ferry.

The nine judges of the Constitutional Court looking into the case of two Financial Supervisory Service employees who challenged clauses in the Government Employees Ethics Law unanimously rejected their claims.

Under the law, officials of the financial regulator cannot be hired by a company in the line of business that he or she had been involved in during the five years before retirement for two years after they leave office. The ruling said that the law was meant to uphold the integrity of public service.

Specifically, the judges said government employees could be tempted to offer favors to certain companies in exchange for post-retirement jobs or hand over confidential information and use their influence to help the company at which they get hired.

The ruling applies to the financial watchdog employees in hiring and disclosure of personal wealth, but nevertheless should send a message to the entire civil service community. The Constitutional Court also referred to the so-called “Gwanfia” problem as a social ill that led to corruption in politics and business.

The dubious ties between the bureaucratic and industrial worlds cannot be completely severed without eradicating the revolving door and golden parachute practices - or job placements for retired government employees.

Relationships of collusion have deeply and widely contaminated society where connections from schools, work and social acquaintances matter so much.

Meanwhile, the legislature has been dragging its feet on the approval of the so-called Kim Young-ran bill, an anti-corruption law that would enable authorities to punish government officials for taking bribes with no conditions attached. Officials from the judiciary and National Tax Service are excluded from scrutiny but they will be included in the revised bill.

The government and legislature must live up to their promise to clean up the bureaucratic society.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 1, Page 30

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