Switzerland ranks 6th in the international transparency rating among 174 countries of the world and fifth in per-capita GNI with US$84,000. Likewise, many countries of Europe are known for their high degree of official integrity and the concomitantly high level of per-capita income. South Korea placed 43rd in transparency and 33rd in per-capita GNI with US$25,931.
The figures above clearly show the close relationship between corruption and per-capita GNI of the people. Could there be a stronger justification for enacting a law to curb the official corruption?
As a result, there was formed the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) in Korea on Feb. 29, 2008 through the merger of the Ombudsman of Korea, the Korea Independent Commission against Corruption and the Administrative Appeals Commission. And a law bill was introduced to the National Assembly in June 2011 by the then Chairperson Kim Young-ran of ACRC, and was passed by its National Policy Committee with the approval of both the ruling and opposition lawmakers on Jan. 12, 2014.
Fraud and graft were rampant especially among the people who wielded much power such as the prosecutors. However, they mostly got away with it through one way or other. It is all very well known that the prosecutors received an expensive Mercedes-Venz sedan car and a Grandeur sedan.
There was sufficient evidence but they were not punished “because the prosecutors gave no favor to the bribers in return for the ‘gifts’ (expensive cars) and they were merely a gift.”
The Sewol Ferry case on April 16 last year was another reason for the need for early passage of the anti-corruption law. Cause of the Sewol case was substantially linked to the official corruption involving ranking officials in the Korean Coast Guard and the maritime transportation ministries.
The range of application of the law, originally, was limited to the officials in the law enforcement agencies, judiciary, legislature and other offices of the administration.
However, in the course of processing it at the National Assembly and other competent government authorities, the range of the parties to be punished has been broadened to include journalists, businessmen, private school teachers, medical doctors and plain citizens.
Critics and the media say that the ranking officials of the three branches of the government have deliberately expanded the range of punishment to obstruct the passage of the lawbill--thinking that the more the people to be punished the larger the chance of their opposing the passage of the lawbill.
With their families included, the number of people to be affected by the corruption control law would total some 20 million accounting for 40% of the total population of Korea.
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