Seoul guidelines take aim at connections, graft

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Seoul guidelines take aim at connections, graft

The Seoul Metropolitan Government said yesterday that it will adopt a stronger code of conduct to root out any bribery cases within the city government.

But despite good intentions, the announcement was met with skepticism due to the lack of legal enforcement. According to the city government, anyone who receives or demands financial or material benefits from a third party will be removed from their position, even when a bribe is not attached with a certain expectation or reciprocal favors.

So far, a dismissal was applied only for those who received bribes for political or business favors.

The new guidelines also urged public officials to avoid working with immediate family members because of concerns over conflicts of interest.

The city government said that it also added a new article that bans retired public servants from working at a private company related to their former duties. So-called “revolving door employment” has raised concerns over the possibility that retired servants may use their influence to gain favorable treatment for the private companies for which they now work.

Calls for the bill’s passage and the fight against bureaucratic corruption were heightened in the wake of the Sewol ferry accident, which shone a light on the problems plaguing Korea’s bureaucracy. But some question the effectiveness of the new measure, given that it is a code of conduct rather than a municipal ordinance.

When asked how to effectively regulate it, Kang Seok-won, an inspection official with the city government, dodged the question by emphasizing that the revision has more symbolic value. “There will be some challenges ... and we admit that it is not legally binding,” he said. “[It shows] Seoul’s determination to fight corruption from the inside out.”


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