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Anticorruption bill delayed

Korean lawmakers are again facing criticism for failing to process the anticorruption “Kim Young-ran bill.”

The proposed law, tentatively called the “act on anti-corruption and prevention of conflicts of interest act,” has been stalled in the National Assembly for almost two years.

Although the prospects for the legislation of the act appeared brighter following President Park Geun-hye’s public appeal, the two main parties have postponed processing it until at least the second half of the year. In apologizing for the Sewol ferry disaster, the president called on the parties to legislate the bill as part of the efforts to break the network of corruption involving former civil servants.

Despite earlier promises to process the act during the National Assembly’s May session, the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy pushed back the issue to the second half of the year.

Although the two sides had agreed on a number of contentious clauses, negotiations fell apart on whether to apply the act to the families of civil servants and others regulated by the proposed act.

Under the proposed act, civil servants will be prohibited from taking on duties that overlap with their own affairs, as well as those of family members and close relatives.

The measure, which some lawmakers claim to be unconstitutional, could prevent relatives of civil servants with a broad range of duties, such as the prime minister, from having an occupation.

“If it is applied to family members (of those regulated by the act), it will be in violation of the Constitution, which bans guilt by association,” Saenuri Party Rep. Kim Yong-tae said.

While lawmakers cite possible unconstitutionalities, criticism is rising that they are protecting their own interests. The act would prevent lawmakers from making requests on behalf of their constituency or lobby organizations.

Elements of the act that the two sides have agreed on include applying the act to a wider range of occupations and allowing penalization of civil servants who receive more than 1 million won ($978,000) under any circumstances, regardless of whether or not the money is given as a bribe. Under the agreement, the act will also concern the staff of private schools and kindergartens, and employees of all news media organizations.

The act, once implemented, will directly affect 1.86 million Koreans. Including their family members, up to 17.8 million Koreans will be subjected to stricter anti-corruption laws.

By Choi He-suk (