A new Assembly, please

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A new Assembly, please

The anti-graft bill called “Kim Young-ran Law,” which will take effect from Sept. 28, is already affecting the lives of bureaucrats, prosecutors, judges, educators and journalists, not to mention those in the agricultural, livestock and dining industries. The law prohibits them from receiving meals worth more than 30,000 won ($26), gifts over 50,000 won, and money over 100,000 won for family events like marriages and funerals.

The law applies to not only government officials but also businessmen and journalists in the private sector. A total of 3 million people are affected by the anti-corruption bill. Despite somewhat unreasonable standards in its enforcement ordinances and overly intrusive applications — which regard a whopping 6 percent of our entire population as potential criminals, for instance — we welcome the law considering our zeitgeist which strongly calls for a clean and transparent culture in our society.

Under such circumstances, lawmaker Kang Hyo-sang of the ruling Saenuri Party, a proportional representative in the April 13 general election, proposed an amendment to the bill to include all 300 legislators of the National Assembly in the 3 million who must abide by the law. His amendment can be praised for sincerity in scrapping a myriad of privileges, including immunity from arrest, which our lawmakers have been enjoying.

The original title of the bill — proposed by Kim Young-ran, then-chairwoman of the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission in 2012 — was a “bill on banning illegal solicitations and avoiding conflicts of interests for public officials.” But the clause on avoiding conflicts of interests was deleted in the course of deliberations at the National Policy Committee. Lawmakers removed the clause citing concerns that it could seriously limit their activities as legislators because it prohibited them, for example, from doing businesses involving their close relatives. As a result, the title of the bill changed to a “bill on banning illegal solicitations and bribes.”

Members of the 19th National Assembly went so far as to insert an exception to the bill, which would allow them to receive grafts from civic groups or political parties who deliver a third party’s petitions for the good of society. Rep. Kang’s revision has deleted the exceptional clause.

But we still have a long way to go. The new legislature must recover the clause on avoiding conflicts of interests as soon as possible. The public would not allow them to enjoy their unrivaled prerogatives while applying strict standards to other people. The new Assembly must act differently from the 19th Assembly.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jul. 5, Page 30
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