Polish, pass anticorruption bill

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Polish, pass anticorruption bill

We welcome passage of the anticorruption measure known as the “Kim Young-ran bill” by a subcommittee of the National Policy Committee, paving the way for legislation that could sever ties between officialdom and business.

The antigraft bill is named for the former head of an anticorruption commission who proposed the legislation in 2011. It has been held hostage by political wrangling since the government proposal was submitted to the legislature in August 2013.

Under the bill, any public official receiving money or items worth more than 1 million won ($900) would face criminal charges punishable by up to three years in prison. The legislation has been touted as an effective way to root out corruption in government and eliminate inappropriate connections between bureaucrats and businessmen. The bill needs further action by the plenary National Policy Committee and the Legislation and Judiciary Committee before it can be put to a vote in the plenary session of the National Assembly.

While the bill incorporates unprecedented details and is broadly comprehensive, it is somewhat disappointing as it stands. It lists 15 corruption cases and seven exceptional cases, which could be open to interpretation. Three anticorruption cornerstones - prohibition of graft and bribery, banning requests for favors and conflict of interest regulations - were dropped during review and discussion. There was the argument that barring a public official from activities involving the official’s personal occupation or expertise or that of family members could be unconstitutional, and the matter was set aside for further consideration next month.

Some also contend the draft proposal is needlessly excessive because it applies not only to public officials, but to staff of public and private schools and kindergartens, as well as employees of newspapers, broadcasters, magazines and Internet media organizations.

The part of the legislation that subjects a public official to criminal charges if family members receive money related to the official’s position was also criticized as too extreme. The ruling and opposition parties should polish the bill now so it won’t spark controversy and problems later.

But questions and concerns should not deter the legislative process. If problems arise later, they can be amended. Supplementary bills can be drawn up if there are loopholes to be closed. The law must be enacted because it could be a tipping point in ensuring that our society is more transparent and honest.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 10, Page 30

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