Saenuri lawmaker questioned over corruption allegations

Anticorruption bills gain momentum after tragedy

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Published : 2014-05-21 20:45
Updated : 2014-05-21 21:21

Lawmakers are seeking to pass a set of anticorruption bills by June to ensure public safety and eliminate government cronyism to tackle the fallout from the ferry disaster that left more than 300 people dead or missing.

Lawmakers hope the new legislations will root out decades-old government practices potentially harmful to public safety.

President Park Geun-hye recently pledged to drive out corrupt officials from public office as the Sewol sinking exposed deep-rooted corruption in government and public regulators. A dozen related bills are now pending at the National Assembly.
A model of a Coast Guard ship is on display at the Korea Coast Guard Academy in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, Tuesday. Lawmakers are now working on a set of bills to step up public safety and prevent corruption after the Sewol tragedy sparked a firestorm of criticism against state agencies involved in the sunken ferry’s rescue operations. (Yonhap)

One legislation in question is the “Kim Young-ran bill,” named after the former Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission chief who proposed the bill. If passed, the act will prohibit monetary transactions between public officials and interest groups.

Senior lawmakers from both the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy said they strongly hope to pass the bill by June despite disagreements over multiple provisions. The two parties occupy 276 of the 288 seats at parliament.

The KYR bill was initially proposed in 2011, and once more in August last year. The ruling and opposition parties have remained divided over several clauses, preventing the bill from being legislated.

The two sides have especially disagreed on whether a monetary transaction between an interest group and a public official constitutes bribery even if the deal is not followed by any compensatory favor.

The Saenuri Party has said making all monetary deals between officials and outsiders illegal would needlessly restrict the private lives of public servants, while the NPAD has said the bill must pass with minimal changes.

But with public opinion calling for sweeping government reforms after the Sewol accident, the newly elected floor leader of the Saenuri Party Rep. Lee Wan-koo said on Wednesday that the bill would pass without major alterations, signaling a policy change within the ruling party.

“Yes, I think the version (of the KYR bill) with the least changes should be passed,” he said on a morning radio show.

Rep. Min Byung-doo of the NPAD also told reporters on Wednesday that he hoped to forward the bill to parliament’s National Policy Committee for approval by May 30. If the bill is passed at the committee, it will await final approval at a full session of the National Assembly.

President Park and senior Saenuri lawmakers have also vowed to strengthen limits on the reemployment of civil officials in external corporations after they retire from public office by amending the Public Service Ethics Act.

Park said on Monday she will increase the list of corporations that public officials are barred from entering after service while also raising the time restriction on reemployment.

NPAD Representatives Chun Soon-ok and Lee Un-ju have also supported amendments to the Framework Act on the Management of Disasters and Safety in response to last month’s Sewol calamity.

The public has become increasingly critical of the government’s response to the Sewol accident, prompting senior government authorities to issue a series of official apologies and emergency measures. More than 80 percent of citizens thought the government’s response to the maritime tragedy was “improper,” according to a Gallup Korea poll last month.

By Jeong Hunny (hj257@heraldcorp.com)

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