The Cabinet authorized the implementation of a revised ethics code for government officials Tuesday that bans retired officials working for private firms from seeking favors from their former colleagues and handling issues they directly dealt with while in office.
The revision, set to take effect after a three-month notification period, came after a series of former financial regulators were arrested earlier this year in a massive influence-peddling scandal involving corruption-laden savings banks.
Former officials were accused of either overlooking irregularities at ailing savings banks while in office in an attempt to land high-paid jobs at those institutions after retirement, or working on behalf of such banks to seek undue favors from their former government colleagues.
The “jeon-gwan-ye-u” practice, which translates to giving “honorable treatment to former officials,” is believed to be widespread in South Korean society, especially among prosecutors and judges. Calls for ending it have spiked since the savings bank scandal.
The revised ethics rules ban retired officials from handling issues they dealt with directly while in office or trying to seek unfair favors from officials they had worked with. Violators can face up to one year in prison or 10 million won ($9,500) in fines.
The revised code also bans government agency chiefs and top officials from taking over specific duties at private firms for one year after retirement if the duties are related to the agencies they headed and feared to affect business interests of the private firms.
Senior officials have also been required to get government approval before landing jobs at big firms after retirement to make sure their new jobs are not related to their former duties. The revision toughened the requirement to include large accounting, law and tax firms even if they fall short of the criteria of big companies.