Shameless lawmakers

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Shameless lawmakers

Half of the members of the National Policy Committee of the National Assembly maintain that lawmakers should not be subject to the anti-graft act, also known as the Kim Young-ran Law, designed to root out graft. Nine of the 19 members on the National Policy Committee replied to a poll by Yonhap News Agency, saying lawmakers should be excused from the guidelines.

One out of four who chose not to directly answer yes or no to the question is said to be opposed to the inclusion of lawmakers. Only six approve of applying the law to lawmakers.

Few would disagree that lawmakers are one of the most corrupt groups in Korea. There were 11 petitions asking the legislature to approve the arrest of parliamentary members on charges of bribery in the last Assembly.

A number of lawmakers under the incumbent Assembly came under fire for favoritism after hiring relatives in their secretariat offices. They repeatedly promise to give up over 200 special rights that keep them above the law, but as time goes by, they sneakily delay taking any real action that could undermine their enormous privileges.

They passed the controversial law only after making an exception for themselves. While broadening the scope of public officials to private school teachers and journalists, they made sure the 300-strong group that needs to be most watched and reined in for various excesses has been kept safe from the new anticorruption law. Once the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act takes effect on Sept. 28, businesses cannot lobby government officials.

They will mostly likely turn to lawmakers as they will remain the only channel for solicitation. Legislators will likely wield more influence in state affairs and become the primary source of the corruption chain.

We hoped the National Policy Committee would be different. But now we see its true colors. The National Assembly has no will or intention to reform itself. The lawmakers said the exception clause should stay intact because they cannot listen to the hardship of the masses and speak for the people under constraint.

The new act prevents them and their spouses from taking gifts worth 50,000 won ($45) or more and forces them to constantly ask whether they are taking any unfair favor. The law is aimed at changing the way business is done in the country.

The National Assembly must stand at the forefront if it is serious about making society transparent and clean.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 1, Page 29
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