Acting president urges review of antigraft law

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Acting president urges review of antigraft law

Acting President Hwang Kyo-ahn told government officials on Thursday to review whether a revision was needed to an antigraft law passed last year that has drawn the ire of businesses affected by the regulation’s spending caps.

The order came after Hwang received briefs from five government ministries on policy plans for the year and from an unnamed expert in the private sector who suggested the so-called Kim Young-ran Law’s spending limits did not match current consumer prices.

The law prevents public officials, journalists and teachers from receiving meals worth more than 30,000 won ($25), gifts worth more than 50,000 won and wedding/funerary cash of more than 100,000 won. The law took effect on Sept. 28 last year.

The consultant argued the 30,000 won cap was based on data from 2003 and that other parts of law were unreasonable. The government did not release the name or occupation of the expert.

“The law needs to be revised to ease the financial burden on low- and middle-income households,” the expert said, adding that the rules might hurt businesses selling flowers, which are commonly used as gifts at weddings and funerals, and restaurant owners.

Hwang subsequently requested government officials to review whether a revision to the law was necessary “as long as it doesn’t damage the purpose of the law.”

The expert’s concern was amplified by a new report from the Korea Development Institute, a state-run think tank, that found consumer sentiment had weakened significantly in December. With persisting uncertainties at home and abroad, the institute warned that the economy was not likely to improve in the short run.

“The consumer sentiment index tumbled, suggesting the possibility of a gradual fall in private consumption,” the institute said in its report Thursday. “Construction-related indicators, including construction orders received, remained weak, signaling a gradual moderation in construction investment growth as well.”

The composite consumer sentiment index in December was at 94.2, down from 95.8 recorded in November. A reading above 100 indicates the majority of survey participants maintain a positive outlook on the national economy, while a reading below 100 indicates a negative view.

The sluggish consumer numbers were moderated by industrial output, which grew 4.6 percent year on year in November, as the mining and manufacturing sectors showed improvement, the institute said.

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