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PSPD  l  People's Solidarity for Participatory Democracy

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  • 2002.08.24
  • 1767

to Eliminate Corruption and Reform Politics



The bad smell of political scandals haunts the country. The very son of the President is designated as the principal offender in an ugly scandal while high officials and related people make headlines almost everyday. This may be called a 'scandal EXPO' of Korea. Is there any way to cut this vicious circle of filthy scandals, repeated on a 5-year basis, involving the arrest of the President's son?

Special actions are urgent for the eradication of corruption. Political parties take turns attacking and defending each other according to their political interest. They are very ardent in attacking other parties to get a favorable position for upcoming elections. However they are not eager to take actions for the fundamental eradication of the corruptions and wrongdoings in political and economic circles. For example, the New Millennium Democratic Party is asserting that the party and President is actually separated simply by the President's resignation of his membership in the Democratic Party while making no apparent efforts to get rid of the irregularities and corruptions. The Grand National Party, the major opposition party, released the National Reform Committee report, which can be interpreted as public engagements for the presidential campaign, and proposed some alternatives for political reform and the elimination of corruption. But, to our great disappointment, it asserts the legislation and administration of the proposals should be put off to the next government.

Now it is high time that the parties should make a firm resolution for political reform and the eradication of corruption. Concrete action plans have been proposed. Numerous discussions have been held. Civil NGOs, including the PSPD have been consistent in arguing for the need for the reform package. Now we propose the following actions once again:

1. A regular special prosecution should be introduced. The institution of regular special prosecutors or A High Official Investigation Bureau should be established.

2. The prosecution system should be reformed so that the neutrality of the prosecution can be kept. Prosecution reform should also contain some measures to eliminate the obsolete seniority-based relationship among prosecutors.

3. To control secretive money, the anti-money laundering law needs to be amended to include a Cash Transaction Report and to omit exceptional regulations for political funds.

4. The Code of Conduct for public officials needs to be thoroughly amended to enhance specific regulations such as assets and property registration and to punish thoses receiving bribes.

5. To ensure transparency, the political fund law must be amended to make use of checks, single accounts, and income/expenditure reports obligatory, to disclose all supporters giving more than 1 million Won etc.

The Five Reform Programs: The Barometer for Each Party's Will to Reform

The five programs stated above are the minimum requirements for rooting out power-related scandals and restoring the people's trust in politics. They are also the barometer for evaluating the will to reform of each presidential candidate. The candidates should propose what we have to do now rather than describe the rosy future after their election. Without cutting this vicious circle of power scandals, each party's pledges to push through political reform in the next term are just empty words.

The PSPD will exert its utmost efforts to enact a set of legislation within this year. Time is pressing for the legislation of the reform programs. However, those laws have been quite thoroughly discussed so we do not need to hesitate. The problem is the resolution of both the parties, not the time limit. The PSPD will do its utmost to enact a set of reform legislations within this year. This effort will include a public memorandum requesting each party's immediate resolution, and proposals for panel discussions attended by the presidential candidates, as well as a signature-collecting campaign for the lawmakers. Our advancement to sever the rope of corruption is an urgent choice.

Five Action Plans for the Eradication of Corruption and Political Reform

1. Standing Special Prosecution System - Special Law should be enacted for the establishment of a Bureau for High Official Investigation

The merit of the special prosecution system. Reduced investigation of the gate at its initial stage, Kim Dae-Woong, the Chief Public Prosecutor's release of the investigation confidential, Ulsan Prosecution Agency's inexplicable termination of the investigation of Pyung-chang Construction left us with no doubt once again about the neutrality and independence of the Prosecution. On the other hand, Prosecutor Cha's Special Prosecution Team, which has so little manpower and organizational backup, showed the power and merits of the special prosecution system by securing outstanding investigation results with firm resolution. Considering these, we do not need to hesitate in ushering in the prosecution system, which has been discussed as the very method to reform the prosecution system in general.



Regular Special Prosecution System to Root Away Power-Related Scandals.

On the other hand, the Grand National Party has proposed that the special prosecutor investigate into the power-related scandals and cases involving its internal personnel. But it is unclear whether the party insists on a regular system or a temporary system. It should manifest the party's position on this. It has also proposed setting up a subordinate body under the Anti-Corruption Committee but it is not an executable proposal. Therefore, introducing the regular special prosecution system and establishing the High Official Investigation Bureau is the best possible alternative to prevent and eradicate the power-related scandals and irregularities.

2. Neutralization of the Prosecution - Revision of the Prosecution Division Law

Is the people's trust in the Prosecution restored? Is the political independence of the prosecution body secured? On the surface, it appears that the Prosecution is recovering its status as a justice organization considering its latest management of Kwon No-gap, one of the highest politicians, and Kim, Hong-gul, the second son of President Kim Dae-jung. But the seeming independence springs from the relative autonomy made possible during the lame duck phenomenon at the end of the Kim Dae-jung government. Moreover, the political stance of the prosecution organization towards Kim Dae-woong, the Supereme Public Prosecutor, the preferential sale of the Park View mansions, and the interrogation of Kim Hong-up, one of President Kim's sons makes us doubtful about the prosecution's neutrality and independence. It is now high time to secure the political independence and neutrality of the prosecution. To secure this goal, the following actions should be taken.

-Holding a Public Hearing on the Prosecutor General

-Securing the Independence of the Prosecution Personnel Committee

-Abolishing the 'principle of identity of prosecutors'

-Prohibition of the retired Prosecutor General from taking the office of Minister of Justice

3. Strengthening measures against money laundering

- Introduction of the Cash Transaction Report (CTR) System

Even though the current government established the Korean Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) to root out money laundering practices, we still witness many cases of money laundering. A most prominent example is the scandal related to the President's son Kim Hong-up, who is suspected of laundering money with the help of Kim Seong-hwan. It is well-known that illegal funds and bribes are mostly traded in a large sum of cash. Therefore, it is impossible to stop money laundering without regulating large cash transactions.

The thing is that the current laws against money laundering lack proper instruments for regulation. That's why the CTR System should be put in place at once. The current law simply stipulates that the staff of financial institutions report suspicious transactions based upon their subjective judgment. On the other hand, the CTR System obligates the staff of financial institutions to report to law enforcement agencies all money transactions surpassing a certain amount, thereby preventing all sorts of problems that can be caused by subjective judgment.

In order to fix some critical loopholes in current laws, the staff of financial institutions should both e entitled to exercise their subjective judgment about suspicious money transactions and be obligated to report transactions exceeding a certain amount.

- Allowing the FIU to investigate domestic transaction accounts

Money laundering, especially that from bribes or illegal political funds, is being done mostly through domestic financial institutions. The FIU does not have a tool to regulate it, though, because the right to investigate banking accounts is limited to overseas transactions. Therefore, the FIU must acquire the right to investigate domestic transactions in order to put a stop to the laundering of bribes or political funds in domestic banks.

- Abolishing the prior notice provision on political funds

A provision of the current law stipulating that the National Election Commission alone be provided with information about suspicious transactions of political funds is unreasonable in that it favors politicians over other criminals. Therefore, this provision should be abolished.

4. Complete revision of the good-for-nothing code of conduct for public officials

- The right to refuse to register property

Kim Hong-up, Kim Hong-gul, Lee Jeong-yeon 쭯 all of them refused to reveal their wealth by using the right to refuse to register property. Kim Hong-gul is already arrested on a charge of receiving bribes in selecting sports lottery businesses. Kim Hong-up is also known to have laundered millions of dollars, and Lee Jeong-yeon is being suspected by the press and the prosecution of manipulating the share price of a certain company. If they had been legally obligated to disclose their property, the illegal accumulation of these politicians' wealth could have been prevented to a certain extent.

The provision of the law on ethics of public officials that allows immediate relatives to refuse to register property was enacted to coordinate people's right to know with the privacy of public official's relatives. But now it is being abused as a means of hiding illegitimate property, crippling the law about revealing public official's property. Therefore, this provision should be abolished.

- Regulation on stock exchanges

▪ Obliging public officials to state what, how much, and how they traded in stocks and to sell stocks that may engender corruption

▪ Prohibiting public servants in certain positions from acquiring some unlisted stocks

Stocks are being used as a new means of political lobbying. Lee Yong-ho lobbied by enrolling high-ranking officials in the stock fund group of his own managing. In order to expand his business, the CEO of Pass 21, Yn Tae-sik, offered his company's shares to politicians, journalists, and government officials for free or for face value. As many as thirty politicians and officials have been found to have received his shares. The thing is that the current law lacks any instruments to regulate such illegal lobbying activities.

In this regard, there are a few steps to be taken. First, stock trades should be openly reported so that the people can see whether the trades are based on inside information. Second, the committee on public officials' code of ethics should examine the shares owned by officials. If the shares are considered to be a cause of corruption or any other illegal acts, the owner must be informed of the assessment and take actions such as disposal of the shares in question or resignation from his public position. The actions taken should also be posted in newspapers so that the people can tell whether they are appropriate and understandable. Third, public officials in certain positions, i.e., those in charge of venture businesses, must be prohibited from acquiring unlisted stocks.

- Eliminating the practice of gift-giving, which has served as an "indulgence" for corrupt officials

The practice of giving gifts to officials on special occasions should be eradicated, though it has been excused as being conventional. Criminal punishment should be imposed on those who take advantage of this practice.

- Doing away with the practice of using public offices as a means of pursuing unjust interests

Some measures should be taken to keep public officials from using their positions to pursue unjust interests. In order to ensure the justice of public servants, they should not be seated in positions affecting their personal interests. In addition, a new provision should be put in place to prohibit officials from having secondary jobs to take advantage of their public posts.

5. Revising laws on political fund to enhance transparency

Tiger Pools International contributed monetary gift to high-ranking officials to be selected as a dealer in the sports lottery. Large amount of monetary gifts distorts decision-making processes and deepens the inequality of politically influential power. A large number of sponsors should be allowed to contribute a small sum of money to political groups while the nature of big-time donations should be openly disclosed.

- Enhancing the transparency of political funds

The system of submitting receipts of fixed amount prescribed by the current law must be abolished because it violates the real-name financial transaction system. Political parties must be obligated to report how much they received in sponsorship on what day as well as the name and address of the donor. When the amount of donated money exceeds one million won, it should be exposed to the public. Disclosing detailed information on donation will enhance the transparency of fund managing.

Besides, transactions of political fund should be carried out through a single account which is registered in the National Election Commission. Transactions exceeding a certain amount must be done through checks or credit cards to keep secretive funds from flowing into the political machinery. In addition, criminals convicted of crimes concerning illegal political funds must be excluded from public posts as those convicted of election crimes are. Then the effectiveness of laws about political funds would be improved.

- Revamping the unrealistic regulations on legitimate election cost

In selecting each party's candidates for the presidential election this year, the legitimate election costs were unrealistically low, eventually bringing about illegal activities to raise fund. The same problem was repeated in the local elections. In order to address this absurd situation the current unrealistic regulations should be revised. While lowering the donation limit from an individual or a corporation, the limit on sponsorship should be eased to make it possible to raise more funds. In addition, the limits on election costs must be eased realistically to expand political freedom and realize the principle of equal opportunities. The most important goal is of course ensuring the transparency of political activities.

- The devil is in the implementation.

The Committee on Rightful Politics and the Coalition for Reforms in the ruling Millennium Democratic Party is considering making it mandatory to use checks for political funds exceeding a certain amount and to disclose banking accounts. On the other hand, the Committee on National Reforms in the opposition Grand National Party suggested using a single account for transactions of political funds. What matters is the legislative will to implement these ideas. The people will stay alert to see whether these attempts are mere stopgap measures or sincere commitments to reforms.

The PSPD’s Campaign Plan

The campaign has three major purposes: (1) to urge each presidential candidate to take the initiative in passing reform bills, (2) to strengthen cooperation with reformist lawmakers, and (3) to lead citizen actions for political reformation through harnessing participation from every walk of life.

For these purposes the PSPD has three specific plans:

1. Request for Candidates’ Commitment

∝ to send open questionnaires to Noh Mu-hyun and Lee Hoi-chang and reveal their answers

- to ask their positions and action plans toward the five major tasks concerning corruption eradication and political reform

- to inform voters of their answers and commitments

∝ to suggest a public discussion between Noh and Lee concerning corruption eradication and political reforms

- to hold a public discussion in June to allow the two candidates to reveal their own positions

2. Collection of Lawmakers’ Signature

∝ talks with reformist lawmakers

- to hold a series of dialogues with reformist lawmakers of each party including members of the Youth Network for the Future (GNP) and the Coalition for Reforms (MDP)

∝ Collection of Lawmakers’ Signatures

- to gather signatures of lawmakers vowing to devote themselves to the passage of the reform bills and to disclose the list of lawmakers who refuse to sign.

3. Leading Citizen’s Actions

∝ to hold cyber signature campaigns targeted at citizens who want corruption eradication and political reform.

∝ to forge strong coalition actions to realize legislation within the year, including a demonstration in front of the Capitol calling for the passage of the reform bills.

As of July 15, 65 National Assembly members out of 258 (25%) have replied to the questionnaire. 50 among them have agreed to pass legislation within this year for corruption eradication and political reform.
Kim Minyoung (Civic Watch, PSPD)
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