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Toward a better-crafted bill

May 27,2017
Prime Minister-nominee Lee Nak-yon in his confirmation hearing said he would immediately embark on a review of the anti-graft law, or Kim Young-ran Act, upon taking office. The cabinet chief has formerly declared he would revisit the law, blamed for dampening domestic demand since it took effect on Sept. 28 last year.

The law has been designed to root out illicit gift-taking, bribery and favoritism in public service. “The law, although necessary, is not well-made,” Lee said in explaining why he thought the act should be revised. The law, which bans public officials, journalists and teachers from receiving meals of more than 30,000 won ($25), gifts of more than 50,000 won and cash tokens beyond 100,000 won at weddings and funerals, instead dealt a heavy blow to merchants and farmers. It also harms the necessary activities of scholars and journalists. There are 11 bills pending in the National Assembly to revise the act.

There are calls to exclude farm produce and adjust the caps for meals, gifts and cash tokens for weddings or funerals. Hong Joon-pyo, candidate for the conservative Liberty Korea Party during the last presidential election, proposed to raise the cap on meals and gifts to 100,000 won while lowering the wedding and funeral contribution to 50,000 won. The design should be upheld, but the details need to be moderated.

It could send the wrong message to simply revise the law just eight months into its enactment. Upon agreement on the need to change the details, they should be directed to improve the traditional culture of gift-sharing and paying cash at weddings and funerals.

The revision process also should go be subject to public debate. The law was challenged because it bypassed public opinions.

The enforcement mechanism should also be toughened. Of 2,311 reports of violation of the law, only 57 were punished. A law is of no use if it is not well administered.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 26, Page 34