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Civil servants give anti-corruption law thumbs up

Nine in 10 civil servants see the anti-graft law, criticized for being too tough and set to be watered down, as being helpful in combating corruption in South Korea, according to a poll released Tuesday nearly 15 months after the law’s effectuation. 

Some 91.8 percent of 800 civil servants surveyed gave a positive review of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, the state-run Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission said in a report, while the same view was shared by 78.9 percent of 1,000 ordinary people polled. 


The report assessed changes in perceptions and everyday business practices regarding corruption and gift-giving after the law came into effect in September last year. 

The commission’s top decision-making body on Monday voted to revise its enforcement ordinance to adjust price limits of gifts or free meals and gift money that public officials can receive. 

Commonly referred to as the Kim Young-ran Act, bearing the name of the former Supreme Court justice who drafted it, the law banned civil servants, teachers, journalists and their spouses from receiving meals, gifts or congratulatory or condolence compensation in excess of value of 30,000 won ($27.50), 50,000 won and 100,000 won, respectively. 

The revision will double the price limit on gifts to 100,000 won for local agricultural, livestock and fishery goods, while lowering the ceiling on gift money on occasions like weddings and funerals to 50,000 won from the current 100,000 won. 

It came after the local agricultural and fishery industries groused about a large decrease in sales after the law’s effectuation. Critics said the original rules negatively impacted some industries, as the caps were set too low without considering market prices. 

According to the commission’s report, some 81 percent of public officials said they received fewer requests for recruitment favors. Another 72.8 percent said paying one’s own bill for a meal had become much easier. 

About 83 percent of some 37,000 parents said perceived bribery in schools had been curbed significantly since the introduction of the anti-graft law last year. 

Entrepreneurs and the business industry also saw the changes as favorable. 

According to the report, 74 percent of 300 entrepreneurs here said the new law had made for a better environment to run the business, especially in regards to reduced reception expenses.

“A significant fall in the reception expenses can, in the long run, change the entire business tradition here and help companies focus more on productive networking,” said the report. 

The report said reception costs of some 600 listed companies had reduced by 0.3 to 0.6 percentage point over a year. 

When it comes to the agriculture and food industries, however, the agency said they have seen decreases in sales after the law’s effectuation, leading to a fall of 900 billion won in the gross national production and an employment cut of some 4,267 people. 

Korea Rural Economic Institute data showed that seven major department stores saw a 14.4 percent on-year drop in sales of gift sets for the Lunar New Year holiday early this year. Sales of gift sets comprising agricultural products such as Korean beef, fishery goods and fruits declined by 25 percent.

“These changes show how budget spending has become more widespread, as well as social custom of gift-giving tradition is moving toward rational spending,” said the report. 

The report also said the when a country’s Corruption Perception Index increases by 10 points, there will be an 8 trillion won increase in its gross domestic product and see 27,000 to 50,000 jobs created, citing the Seoul National University data in November. 

According to Transparency International, South Korea ranked No. 52 with 53 points in 2017. The average on the CPI for members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development was 68.6 points.

By Kim Da-sol (