Chaos after graft law prompts some rethinking

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Chaos after graft law prompts some rethinking

The government decided Friday to create a task force with the Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission, Ministry of Justice and Ministry of Government Legislation to offer interpretations of the new anticorruption law after its impact on the economy proved even worse than critics’ predictions.

Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn hosted a meeting with concerned ministers in the morning to review problems in the law’s enforcement. The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, often referred to as the Kim Young-ran law after the former head of the anticorruption commission who authored the initial draft, took effect on Sept. 28, 2016.

The inter-ministerial task force team will provide responses to a surges of inquiries about the impact of the new law. The team will start working at the end of this month inside the Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission. Other concerned ministries will provide assistance.

The government also decided to increase the manpower of the commission to more speedily respond to public inquiries about the law.

The commission said it will tour the country by the end of this year to offer advice. Other ministries, including the Ministry of Personnel Management and the Interior Ministry, will provide education programs to municipal and provincial civil servants and education officials as well as journalists.

A weekly report of frequently asked questions will also be distributed. A compilation of the reports will be published at the end of this year.

“Because we are at the early stage of enforcing this law, and because about 4 million people are covered by it, confusion is destined to follow,” Hwang said.

The law defines “public officials” broadly. Aside from civil servants and lawmakers, teachers and journalists are covered because the bill considers their work public. Even their spouses are covered. Because the anticorruption commission, which proposed and oversees the implementation of the law, gave extremely conservative interpretations on the practices permitted under the law, concerns grew that the law would paralyze operations at public offices and have a freezing impact on spending.

Meanwhile, Justice Ko Young-han, minister of the National Court Administration, said Friday that the anticorruption commission has been defining “job-related people” covered by the law too widely. He made the remark at the National Assembly’s audit of the Supreme Court.

“The law, because of its nature, has many ambiguities,” he said. “For now, the commission and the Supreme Court have to use conservative standards.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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