The Seoul Metropolitan Government has unveiled a set of toughened anticorruption rules for its employees. The new ethics code deserves praise since it sets an example for not only other local governments but also the central government and the National Assembly, which have yet to fulfill the commitment to curbing corruption that they made in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster.
The city’s measures are highlighted by harsh punishment for bribery, prevention of conflicts of interest and revolving door employment, and operation of an open corruption report system.
Under the new code, any city employee who receives any sum of money, even 1,000 won, or free entertainment faces discipline whether the official did something in return for it or not and whether it is related to the job of the official or not.
Any city employee who receives 1 million won or more or who solicits money, gifts or free entertainment will face heavy punishment, no lighter than dismissal.
These rules are as tough as the so-called “Kim Young-ran anticorruption bill,” which was submitted to the National Assembly about two years ago, and tougher than the revision bill to the Civil Service Ethics Law drawn up after the Sewol ferry sinking.
The recent case involving a prosecutor who received money from a wealthy businessman but evaded criminal punishment shows why the city’s new ethics code should be lauded.
The prosecution said that its investigation found that the prosecutor received about 18 million won from a businessman who is believed to be the victim of a contract killing. But the prosecution decided not to indict him on a criminal charge because the prosecutor did not do anything for the businessman in return for the money. It is ridiculous that our legal code cannot punish a civil servant who received as much as 18 million won from a businessman in about 10 installments over six years.
The Seoul City’s ethics code is also noteworthy in that it toughened rules on conflicts of interest and revolving door employment, which have been cited as one of the causes for the sinking of the Sewol ferry in April.
The city banned retired officials from seeking jobs at a private company for three years if they were involved in related work up to five years before their retirement.
Mayor Park Won-soon expressed hopes that the new ethics rules will have a butterfly effect and encourage changes in the nation’s civil service as a whole.
The first people to pay heed to the mayor’s remarks should be the members of the National Assembly, who have been holding up passage of the Kim Young-ran bill and the revision to the Civil Service Ethics Law.