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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 14)

All News 06:59 December 14, 2017

Time to get tougher
Nation should step up anti-corruption drive

The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) has decided to allow civil servants, teachers and journalists to receive agricultural, livestock and fisheries products as gifts as long as their value does not exceed 100,000 won ($90). The price cap is exactly double the current amount.

The decision came as part of the Moon Jae-in administration's efforts to boost the consumption of such products by raising the price ceiling. It is designed to help farmers, livestock breeders and fishermen who have suffered the most under the anti-graft law.

The law, also known as the Kim Young-ran Act, went into effect in September last year. It was named after the former ACRC chief who initiated the anti-corruption legislation. The law bans public officials, teachers and journalists from being treated to meals in excess of 30,000 won, receiving gifts valued over 50,000 won and accepting congratulatory or condolence money of more than 100,000 won.

On Monday the commission decided to double the gift limit for the farm products, while cutting the monetary acceptance cap in half. The government now plans to approve the decision so that it can implement the new rule well ahead of the Feb. 16 Lunar New Year holiday when demand for such products is in high demand.

However, the commission's actions have raised questions about the liberal government's will to root out deep-rooted corruption in officialdom and politics. It has also sparked a controversy over the legitimacy and fairness of the decision.

Officials argue the move does not necessarily mean a retreat from Moon's commitment to eradicate the accumulated evils of Korea. They claim the changed regulation is stricter than the previous one, citing the toughened money acceptance limit.

But critics say it is not fair to hike the gift restriction only to the benefit of a specific group of people. They ask, "What if other groups also press for a similar demand?" Actually, ginseng growers and breeders of Korean cattle have called on the commission to increase the cap to 200,000 won. They are expected to raise their voice for the easing of the rule.

Also at stake is the decision-making process. The anti-corruption commission held a board meeting Nov. 27 to put the proposed revision to a vote. Board members voted it down. Is it legitimate to approve it 14 days after its rejection? The board decided to change the regulation without voting, despite some members still opposing it. It cannot be seen as a democratic decision-making process.

Most people want to see the nation stepping up its campaign against rampant corruption, especially following the massive influence-peddling and graft scandal involving ousted President Park Geun-hye and her aides. It is time not to soften, but to get tougher with corrupt officials and politicians.

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