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364. The Age of Kim, Young-ran Law

the New Law to Stop Corruption

Lee, Yu-jeang 기자2016.11.08 17:12:16

           In Korea, when some people happen to have difficulties with government agencies, they have been using their acquaintanceships rather than following legal procedures. They have been serving expensive meals or giving presents to people in power in order to get their support, even if it is hard to say that they received something in return. The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act is expected to be a starting point from which we can reduce corruption and move toward the establishment of a fair society with righteous practices.


Process of Enacting the Law

Why is the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act nicknamed as the Kim, Young-ran law? This is because this law was proposed by a woman named Kim, Young-ran who is the first female justice of the Supreme Court in Korea. She was the chairwoman of Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission when she proposed the law. After she proposed the law in June 2011, the discussion of this law was making a very slow progress. However, after the Sewol ferry sank in 2014, problems related to Gwanpia[1] have been raised and plenty of legislators claimed Kim, Young-ran law should be enacted to diminish government officers’ corruption. On May 3, 2015, the National Assembly finally passed the Kim, Young-ran law.

Details of the Law

The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, the so-called Kim, Young-ran law, has been enforced since September 28, 2016 and aims to eliminate government officers’ corruption. The subjects of the law are government employees, teachers in every school including private schools and kindergartens, journalists working in media outlets, and spouses of all those mentioned above. Teachers and journalists are included in the subjects of the law because education and journalism has a huge impact on our society and these positions require moral rectitude. When spouses of the subjects accept bribes, the subjects will get penalties only when they receive bribes which are related to their job. The number of the direct subjects of the Kim, Young-ran law is estimated to be 2.5 million, or about 4 million when the spouses are included. However, the vice chairman of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission says that assuming this law applies to every Korean makes it easier to comprehend this law, because anyone working with the subject of the law is concerned.

 By this law, people cannot make improper solicitation to the subjects of this law. Improper solicitation includes 14 sectors such as approval, personnel affairs, entering schools, and grading exams. Furthermore, the subjects and the bribe providers will be punished when the subjects accept money or goods as bribes that exceed 1 million won (3 million won in one year) even if the prosecutors cannot prove that the money or goods were given with strings attached. They will receive criminal penalties of less than 3 years or will be fined less than 5 times the bribe they received. Additionally, the subjects of the law should not receive meals which cost more than 30,000 won. Presents should be under 50,000 won and cash gifts given in special events such as weddings and funerals should be under 100,000 won. Moreover, payments of lectures for the subjects are also part of the target of this law. When the subjects of the law happen to give a lecture, ministers can receive no more than 500,000 won per hour, and teachers and journalists can receive no more than 1 million won per hour.

The Kim, Young-ran Law and KNU

           All Kyungpook National University students should consider themselves as directly related to the Kim, Young-ran law because all faculties and professors are the unmediated subjects of the law. For example, if a graduate student provides lunch which costs 20,000 won and a desert which costs 20,000 won to a professor in return for the professor proofreading the student’s research, the student and the professor will have violated the law and both of them should pay a penalty fee. Moreover, college and graduate students should not ask professors to raise their grades either in person or in writing, and professors should reject their requests right away. In addition, it could be against the law if professors help their acquaintances to get hired as a part-time lecturer, or give acquaintances some advice on entering their university and receive a present in return which costs more than 50,000 won.

 It is said that because of this law, students will not be able to “be hired first, and graduate later”, since allowing students who are already employed by companies to skip classes, and earn credits by other ways such as submitting reports will not be acceptable and it will be considered as improper solicitation. Due to the difficulties in finding a job these days, universities have turned a blind eye to this practice, even though it is not allowed in principle. However, the Ministry of Education sent notes to universities to make an exception of the rule to allow students to “be hired first, and graduate later”, so it seems that KNU students would not have to worry about this.


           There are some worries about the Kim, Young-ran law, but most Koreans have high expectations about it and are thinking this law will help eliminate corruption in our society. However, we need to reexamine the law to avoid any side effects even though the constitutional court confirmed that this law is fair by declaring that it does not violate the constitution. We should keep an eye on this law in the future, since it conflicts with our society’s customs, and see what kind of impact it will make upon Korean society.  

 


[1] Gwanpia is a combination of the words “Government officials” and “mafia” which means retired officials working in the field related to their former official businesses and forming huge influence like mafia to pursue their own interest using personal connections based on regions and schools.

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