Updated May. 21, 2014 06:54
The gwanfia, referring to a group of retired officials who are employed by government-related organizations, is often used to lobby the government. The primary cause of the Sewol ferry disaster was abnormality in our society where safety regulations cannot play their roles due to the ecosystem of the gwanfia in which former and incumbent government officials backscratch each other.
President Park Geun-hye declared a war against the gwanfia on Monday, saying that she would cut the illegal link between private and public sectors. One plan is a revised bill of the Public Service Ethics Act, which makes it harder for retired officials from being re-employed by a government-related entity, and the other plan is to block lobbying. President Park asked the National Assembly to pass the so-called Kim Young-ran Act (anti-corruption act), which strengthens punishment to prevent the gwanfia from lobbying or asking a favor to the government. The presidents plan is to prevent the creation of the new gwanfia and curb the activities of the existing gwanfia.
The Kim Young-ran bill was first proposed in 2011 by Kim Young-ran, the then head of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission and former Supreme Court Justice. After a setback due to the opposition by the Justice Ministry, however, the bill revised by the government was submitted to the National Assembly in August 2013. In the course of the revision, the contents changed significantly. In the original version, an official who receives money and valuables worth one million won (965.61 U.S. dollars) or more would face criminal punishment even if they are neither compensatory nor related to his or her job. Under the version revised by the government, an official will be punished as stated in the original version if the money and valuables are related to his or her job. If they are not related to his or her job, an official will be fined, instead of criminal punishment. The revised version expanded the scope of fines to include those who receive bribes and valuables and even entertainment worth less than one million won (965.61 dollars) and even an official who is treated with a meal could be subject to a fine.
The revised bill included government officials and even lawmakers, along with the punishment of corruption. For such reason lawmakers who are accustomed to being lobbied or receiving entertainment seem reluctant to the bill. Both the ruling and opposition parties have let the bill idle for eight months. After the ferry disaster occurred, they began to deliberate the bill on April 25. Out of 153 heads of government-related organizations named by the Park Geun-hye administration, 51 people, or 33.3 percent, are the gwanfia that is from the higher government ministries and agencies. To make this country safer, both the ruling and opposition parties should pass the Kim Young-ran bill, in particular, the original one, as soon as possible.