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Lawmakers shrink from softer campaign rules

Four lawmakers have retracted support for a proposed revision bill which would make it harder for law-breaking elected officials to lose their seats ― with others thought likely to follow.

Last Friday, Grand National Party Rep. Kim Choong-whan, along with lawmakers from other parties, submitted a revision bill to raise the minimum requirements before elected officials could be stripped of their position.

According to the revision bill of the election law, an official would have to be fined 3 million won ($2,750) or more, instead of the present 1 million won, to be expelled for election law breaches.

The annulment due to the law breach by family members or campaign managers would require a minimum fine of 7 million won, instead of the present 3 million won.

Also, the occurrence of the crime would have to take place 180 days before or after the legitimate election campaign period.

Kim, however, soon confronted public backlash as his wife had been sentenced to a 5 million won-fine last January for illicit election campaigns, blocking him from campaigning.

Should the election law be revised as he suggested, Kim will legally qualify to campaign in next year’s general election.

Among the 20 lawmakers who co-signed Kim’s bill, four ― including Reps. Lee Kyeong-jae and Koh Seung-duk of the GNP ― issued a statement on Monday to remove their signatures. Seven more are also expected to follow suit.

The bill was signed under the charge of their staff, without their knowing about the contents, they claimed.

Some also contended that Kim single-handedly added details not included in the original bill which they signed ― such as the regulation of the election law breach by family members or campaign managers.

Cheong Wa Dae also indicated its disapproval of the revision bill.

“We sympathize with the public sentiment (upon the election law revision bill),” a Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters Monday.

Meanwhile, Kim defended himself over the disputed bill on a radio show on Tuesday morning.

“Korea is the only country in which dozens of officials are stripped of their seats every year,” he said.

“The present election law does not properly reflect the improved election culture here, which is why it requires some revision.”

A total of 17 lawmakers have so far had their elections invalidated and lost their seats in the present National Assembly, among which 12 were penalized for election law breach.

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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