South Korean diplomats in foreign countries will no longer offer support services to lawmakers traveling abroad for personal reasons, government officials said Wednesday.
Legislators had been allowed to request support staff from embassies and consulates when making trips to foreign countries, regardless of the nature of their visits.
Lawmakers will now be required to submit paperwork to the Foreign Ministry at least 10 business days before going abroad in order to receive administrative support from diplomats.
The change attempts to fix frowned-upon practices among members of the National Assembly. Lawmakers at times were accused of abusing their authority when visiting foreign countries by asking diplomats to attend to personal affairs.
Embassy staff were also recruited as personal drivers for vacationing lawmaker family members in some extreme cases, according to former diplomats.
Regulations now explicitly state that diplomats will only assist legislators conducting official government duty.
All phrases that had referred to “unofficial duty” ― a euphemism for personal favors ― were deleted from related diplomatic tenets, government officials said.
Financial limits were also added.
The new regulations will continue to allow embassies and consulates to use money from their own budgets in support of visiting lawmakers. But official funds can no longer be used to pay for rental car fees, translation services, or for using VIP lounges at airports. Lawmakers customarily use luxury airport lounges and travel first-class on airplanes.
Related laws authorize the government to pay for lawmakers’ travel expenses. All domestic air, train, and sea travel is paid for when the National Assembly is in session. When out of session, lawmakers can apply for similar financial support as long as they are traveling for official purposes, according to the National Assembly Act.
Foreign travel expenses are also paid for by taxpayers.
By Jeong Hunny (firstname.lastname@example.org)