Despite assurances from political parties, many suspect that they will again take no action on a new, strengthened anticorruption bill. No one can be blamed for harboring such suspicions, given that the parties reneged on their earlier promise to pass the bill under a bipartisan accord.
In what is perceived by many as an attempt to sabotage the bill’s passage, members of the National Policy Committee continue to bring up minor issues instead of taking the plunge and putting it to a vote. That was what they did until the bill was shelved when the National Assembly’s previous special session closed at the end of May.
The key point of the Kim Young-ran bill, named after a former chair of the Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission, is to bring criminal charges against public officeholders when they are found to have taken 1 million won or more or anything of equivalent value, regardless of whether they promise a favor in return.
Currently, no criminal charges can be upheld against suspects unless it is proven that they have promised to provide favors in return for the money they received.
This loophole makes it possible for those suspected of taking bribes to avoid being sentenced up to three years in prison by successfully arguing they promised no favor when they received the money. All they have to do is pay a fine of up to five times the amount of money accepted.
Quite a few incumbent and former lawmakers are among those who have avoided being punished in this manner.
Given this, it is only a matter of course for the public to suspect the lawmakers wanted to make it possible to get away with bribery when they first balked at the idea of the bill’s application being extended to include suspect members of the National Assembly. But they yielded to public pressure and agreed to its application to all suspect public officeholders.
Now the parties will do well to stop debating such minor issues as whether or not to make the bill applicable to private school teachers. Either way will do. They should pass the bill before the current parliamentary session is closed.