A wake-up callAfter the Constitutional Court ruled the anti-graft act known as the Kim Young-ran law constitutional, Korean society is poised to take an uncharted path. After several petitions challenged the constitutionality of the law, which is to take effect from Sept. 28, the highest court determined it does not violate the freedom and equality of individuals.
The anti-bribery law has been a contentious issue since its passage in the National Assembly in March because people’s way of life can hardly be taken hostage in the name of resolving corruption. People in agricultural, fishery and floral businesses staged demonstrations in protest of the law because they said it would hurt their livelihoods.
The law had potentially unconstitutional elements because it also applies to private school teachers and journalists and because it stipulates that their spouses must report to the police a husband or wife taking bribes from others. The concept of illegal solicitations in the law was also ambiguous as it could easily turn a considerable number of innocent citizens into potential criminals.
But the top court proclaimed that those clauses do not restrict the freedom of the press and private education. The court said they do not violate the principle of Nullum crimen sine lege (“no crime without law”) given a number of earlier rulings in the highest court. As the Kim Young-ran law heralds a big change in the way Koreans give presents and receive generosity from other, we should squarely address our deep-rooted culture of graft.
We urge the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission, which proposed the act, to refine enforcement ordinances for two months so as not to cause confusion among the people. If the government executes the law loosely, it will trigger public resistance. The administration must do its best in order not to infringe on the freedom of the speech.
Also, the government needs to revise the law or enact a new law because lawmakers and party officials are excluded from the law. It allows them to receive graft from civic groups or political parties who deliver a third party’s petitions for the good of society. Some members of the ruling Saenuri Party also calls for a revision of the act citing “many loopholes discovered in the process of the top court’s deliberations.”
The legislature must consider the idea of including lawyers, doctors and executives of private companies in the law. The transparency of our companies ranked 27th among 34 OECD member nations. That’s not good enough.
JoognAng Ilbo, July 29, Page 34