Op/Ed

Anti-Corruption Law: Early Success and Personal Reservations

Photo by Watchsmart/flikr. CC2.0 license.
Photo by Watchsmart/flikr. CC2.0 license.
James Hyams
Written by James Hyams

An insightful opinion piece by Dwayne Melendez on the anti-corruption laws:

For a nation whose trust in government hit an all-time high about a year ago, last March’s Kim Young Ran’s anti-corruption law served a source of hope for Koreans long sick of the corruption rattling its government.

The passing of the law seeks to bring down politicians who accept bribes by imposing punitive measures on the recipients. After a challenge in court, the law was finally solidified.

Enter the litmus test – Prime Minister Lee Won-Koo. Following the suicide of prominent businessman Sung Wan-jong, police authorities encountered a note that points to bribes to eight prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Lee.

Lee was specifically quoted for accepting 30 million won in illegal campaign funds. Recently, Lee decided to step down from his position and has stated that he will assist in further investigations.

To make matters a bit amusing, some say that Mr. Sung’s suicide was the product of investigations regarding him bribing politicians.

While the legislation has brought about some decent success in its incipient stages, I do worry about a new type of warfare between corrupt politicians and businessmen.

The situation between Mr. Sung and Prime Minister Lee is not unique. Many politicians and businessmen are likely to be involved in undercover and unknown scandals.

Sadly, this new dilemma can pan out in two ways. One is akin to mutually assured destruction – both parties are aware that the other has something on them so neither pulls the trigger; the other case is a metaphorical game of Russian roulette – who can pull the trigger first and beat out the other party?

Either way, the law finds itself as either a tool to protect a corrupt party or to prevent any corruption to not surface.

Additionally, lawmakers will still be able to lobby for legislation legally. The law itself only goes as far as spousal acceptance of gifts so indirect bribes will still be a likely possibility.

In essence, it is only a tad bit more different than the good old days of corruption where one would stuff tons of 50,000won bills in Vita500 boxes minus the shipping costs and the waste of the tasty drink.

Make no mistake. I believe that this law certainly brings more benefits than problems. Korea is a country long troubled by corruption. Look no further than the haphazard efforts taken by authorities to bring justice to the sunken Sewol ferry of last year.

Many believe that corruption was behind the poorly ruin evacuation and the lackluster efforts to convict the main culprits.

I am currently idealistic about the power this anti-corruption law possesses, but I believe that even the best proponents cannot look at laws with rose colored glasses. The people want solutions, not just bandages.

Written by Dwayne Melendez and submitted to The Korea Observer. His original blog submission can be found here: http://andsoitgoesinkorea.blogspot.kr/2015/04/kim-young-ran-anti-corruption-law-early.html

About the author

James Hyams

James Hyams

James Hyams juggles several careers including being a journalist and a social worker. James has an avid interest in 'telling it as it is', exposing matters of public interest, and reviving investigative journalism in the new digital era. Testimony to this is his thesis titled: “U.S. Government secrecy and the withering watchdog: Is WikiLeaks the answer?”

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