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A Prescription for a Sick Country
[ Issue 150 Page 10 ] Friday, November 25, 2016, 13:00:39 Hyunseung Hwang Staff Reporter aguno@kaist.ac.kr

    I thought adults loved apples when I was young. I remember a movie where a police officer spends years to find a criminal but lets the criminal escape after receiving an apple box as a gift. I asked my parents how the police officer could give up his work for just a box of apples. My parents told me adults cannot live without apples. Now I know what these “apples” were, and my parents were right: we cannot live without money. However, we should definitely resist any “rotten apples” that are offered. Unfortunately, we no longer get surprised by bribery scandals among businessmen, politicians, or high-level government officials. The privileged keep abusing power and only a small proportion, such as the “nut rage” incident from Korean Air, have been exposed to the public eye.

     Congress finally decided to pass an anti-graft law called the Kim Young-ran Act, which is named after the head of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission Young-ran Kim, in the hopes of rooting out corruption among public officials. The law came into effect on September 28 in the hopes of creating a transparent society. The law not only targets public officials under the government, but also applies to private school teachers and journalists. The law prohibits accepting gifts over 50,000 KRW and meals over 30,000 KRW.

     Korea has a significant problem with corruption. Korea is the 11th largest economy in the world but yet is ranked 27th out of 34 OECD countries in the Corruption Perceptions Index. The Kim Young-ran Act will finally be able to break any connections that favored the privileged. The government can focus on serving the interests of the country with no strings attached. Education can now provide equal opportunity for success in all schools. Although the most important role of journalists is to provide information from different viewpoints, politicians and businessmen have been filtering the media based on their interests. Now, journalists can finally be independent from political pressures or offers from companies.

     Despite the overwhelming support of the Kim Young-ran Act, unforeseen issues still remain. It is dampening the already feeble consumption and growth rate of our economy. The legislation covers about 4 million people in a country with a population of 50 million, and therefore spending on gifts and meals for almost 10% of the population has been reduced; according to BC Card, a credit card processor, corporate spending on meals has dropped 8.9% after the law came into effect. Small businesses that rely on selling gifts over 50,000 KRW are also forced to reduce the price of their products to sell “legal presents”. Ironically, debate over fairness has also been raised as an issue. Corruption among private organizations such as private hospitals or companies will not be covered by the law. For example, while doctors of university hospitals are under limitations, such as not being able to offer favorable treatment to personal requests, private hospitals are not. The same constraint on private organizations would be able to reduce collusion and allow the market to decide the price of a product instead.

     But nothing can start off perfect. We need to express our support for laws like this so that the leaders of the future will refer to them. After all, the only thing the politicians fear are our votes and voices.

Hyunseung Hwang Staff Reporter Archives  
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