Cutting corruption chains

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Cutting corruption chains

The controversy over the anti-graft act, also called the Kim Young-ran Law, has subsided after the Constitutional Court’s ruling on Thursday that the strict law banning civil servants from taking bribes and solicitations is constitutional. It is time for the people to make efforts to make our society a more transparent one when the law takes effect on Sept. 28.

The highest court also recognized a need to include journalists and private school teachers in the act. A majority of the 9-member justices in the court underscored a need to enhance the transparency of our civilian sector as well as officialdom in order to root out deep-seated corruption and create a better society. Seven justices emphasized that the anti-graft law needs to cover journalists and educators, as well, given the pivotal role they play in our society.

But it is not desirable for the National Assembly to press ahead with a revision of the law — which would exclude those two professions from the act — when we take into account the growing public support for the inclusion. Instead of the exclusion, we should expand the scope of the law to other areas of our private sector. The top court highlighted that it does not constitute arbitrary discrimination to make journalists and teachers subject to the act.

Our private sector stops way short of international standards when it comes to corruption. As the minority opinion of the highest court indicates, four areas — construction, retail, medicine and social welfare — show lower scores than the global averages of transparency competitiveness per industry. Widespread behind-the-door deals between large companies and their contractors, illegal solicitations and slush funds are classic examples of the lack of transparency in our society, not to mention shady deals among lawyers, financiers, accountants and doctors.

In the latest ruling, the Constitutional Court attributed the distortion of the rule of law and economic order — and our slowed growth — to corruption in our society, which led to the fall of Korea’s credibility overseas. Britain and Singapore apply their anti-graft and anti-corruption laws to their entire civilian sector.

The Kim Young-ran Law is not aimed at restricting vocational activities, but at ensuring fairness in doing jobs and gaining public trust. We must launch aggressive campaigns to cut the vicious cycle of corruption. The government should expand the scope of the law while fixing loopholes in its implementation. That’s a path we must take to survive.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 30, Page 26
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