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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 1)

All News 07:03 August 01, 2018

Political fund act
Lawmaker's death underlines need for revision

Many people are still mourning the sudden death of popular lawmaker Roh Hoe-chan last week. The three-term lawmaker who served as the floor leader of the minor opposition Justice Party committed suicide amid allegations of receiving illicit political funds.

In a note that was discovered by the police, the late lawmaker admitted to accepting 40 million won ($35,200) from an online political forum led by Druking, a blogger at the center of an online opinion-manipulation case involving some close aides to President Moon Jae-in, including South Gyeongsang Governor Kim Kyoung-soo. The note shocked many people as Roh was known for his active push for clean politics and reformist ideals.

Although he denied accepting the money in return for any favors, Roh did recognize he was at fault by not going through the proper procedures regarding "sponsorship" to legally claim the money. He said it was a "foolish choice and a shameful decision."

The death of the icon of progressive politics has underlined the need to revise the political fund act, which was amended in 2004 to restrict political funds and promote transparency in politics. Despite the good intentions, the act does not fully reflect the reality where it is impossible to be in politics without money. For lawmakers, it takes a huge amount of money to manage election campaigns and maintain regional offices. The act has resulted in various malpractices by politicians.

After Roh's death, some lawmakers started to raise the need to fix the current system which makes it difficult for legal fundraising for politicians outside the National Assembly and for political newcomers.

The biggest problem with the act is that it is absolutely favorable for incumbent members of the National Assembly and large parties. A big portion of the subsidies allocated to political parties by the National Election Commission are distributed to big parties. Under the act, political newcomers and politicians outside the Assembly are prohibited from registering sponsorships until 120 days before a general election. This is considered a huge barrier for new politicians. Roh received the money in March 2016, when he was not a member of the Assembly.

It is necessary for parties to discuss ways to make the act better reflect reality and promote fairness while maintaining its original intent.

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