Nepotism scandal costs 30 jobs in Assembly

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Nepotism scandal costs 30 jobs in Assembly

Within 10 days of a nepotism scandal involving an opposition lawmaker, at least 30 aides of representatives quietly quit their jobs - indicating that the practice of putting relatives on the National Assembly payroll was more widespread than expected.

The scandal started on June 21 when Rep. Seo Young-kyo of the Minjoo Party of Korea was criticized for having hired her daughter as an intern in her parliamentary office in 2014. She also hired her older brother as accounting manager of a supporters’ association and her younger brother as a secretary. Following that revelation, more lawmakers from all major political parties were found to have hired relatives. Rep. Park In-sook of the Saenuri Party, Reps. An Ho-young and Choo Mi-ae of the Minjoo Party and Rep. Song Ki-seok of the People’s Party were revealed to have put relatives on their payrolls.

A lawmaker is allowed to hire up to nine aides and interns for his or her office, and their salaries total 445.5 million won ($386,066). The pay ranges from 77.5 million won for a senior aide to 17.6 million won for an intern. From June 21 to 30, 24 aides excluding interns were dismissed, the National Assembly said. On Friday, six more aides filed their resignations. In total, 30 aides left the National Assembly over the 10 days since the nepotism scandal of Rep. Seo was first revealed.

“Most of them were fired by lawmakers after the scandal erupted,” said an official of the National Assembly. “If you include interns, the number is probably higher.”

“It is lamentable to see some people who worked in the legislature for more than decade, leaving,” said a long-time secretary to a Saenuri lawmaker. “The mood is tense.”

The secretary said some of those who resigned were known for great performances. “Why do they all have to quit just because they were relatives?” he asked.

Another aide of a People’s Party lawmaker agreed. “Hiring someone without ability only because of a blood tie to a lawmaker is a problem, but it is also a tragedy that talented aides are losing their jobs just because they were distant relatives of the lawmakers,” he said. As the controversy grew, National Assembly Speaker Chung Sye-kyun said Friday that the ethics code of the National Assembly should be revised to create a proper standard. Chung said he will collect opinions from various communities and propose guidelines to the National Assembly’s House Steering Committee. The National Assembly’s secretary-general, Woo Yoon-keun, said a revision to the ethics code will be created by his office. He said the current code does not include any clause on hiring relatives as aides. “We must define the scope of the relatives that will be affected by the hiring guidelines,” he said.

Speaker Chung and the floor leaders of the Saenuri, Minjoo and People’s parties also agreed Thursday to create an advisory panel to come up with plans to voluntarily surrender many perks of lawmakers. The panel will be overseen directly by the speaker.

The panel will first address a series of proposals made by the Saenuri Party, including giving up on lawmakers’ immunity from an arrest during a legislative session.

BY SER MYO-JA, AN HYO-SEONG [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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