Cut the dirty connectionsThree politicians in the opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), Shin Gye-ryoon, Kim Jae-yun and Shin Hank-yong, are under investigation on suspicions that they lobbied for the Seoul Arts College in exchange for hefty bribes before the school changed its name in June from a “vocational school” to simply a “college.” The three lawmakers received illegal funds in return for shirking their legislative duties. Their behavior is much worse than other types of bribery, as it can inflict great mischief on society by disrupting the legislative order beyond individual-level corruption.
Kim Min-sung, the chairman of the college’s board, believed the school could admit more students if it was referred to as a college rather than a “vocational school.” But the Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Education strongly opposed the idea of changing the school’s name out of concern that it could confuse applicants: They could mistake the vocational school for a general college. Despite strong opposition from other legislators in the Environment and Labor Committee, its chairman, Shin Gye-ryoon, and his peers pressed ahead with passing a bill aimed at deleting words such as “vocational,” and instead calling it a college on the grounds that the word “vocational” would make students pursuing careers as entertainers feel dejected. That constitutes a brazen trade-off of legislative duty in return for favors. Chairman Shin and Kim Jae-yun reportedly had friendly meetings with the chairman of the school board, who is also suspected of financially supporting Shin’s publication ceremonies. We are dumbfounded by the dirty connections between powerful lawmakers and their clients.
A similar case involving bribes also created a stir four years ago. Leaders at a national private security guard association donated more than 300 million won ($290,000) to 38 lawmakers on related committees at the National Assembly so that they would revise a law on the status of private security guards. The group even sent the money to the lawmakers in small units of 100,000 won in the name of thousands of members. The Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s ruling that it was an illegal donation.
The prosecution is also investigating ruling Saenuri lawmaker Cho Hyun-ryong on charges of taking millions of won in bribes from railway parts suppliers from August 2011, shortly after he retired as chairman of the board of the Korea Rail Network Authority, until after the 2012 general election. In that case too, the part suppliers attempted to take advantage of Cho’s status as lawmaker. A series of recent investigations by the prosecution shows that the shady deals between legislators and their clients have reached as alarming a level as those among the officialdom and the financial, maritime and railway sectors. The legislature must implement its self-proposed reform initiatives before it’s too late.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 7. Page 30