Last year, local journalists as well as private school organizations filed four separate petitions, asking the Constitutional Court to review the antigraft law, also called the Kim Young-ran Act.
However, the court had said the law does not put direct restriction on contact between journalists and their sources, or on their legal rights to report and to inform the public. The petition filed by private school teachers was dismissed for similar reasons.
Under the law, journalists and private school teachers will be fined if they are treated to meals that cost more than 30,000 won ($26.70). The decree also set the ceilings for gifts at 50,000 won and for condolence money at 100,000 won.
Under the new legislation, journalists and private school faculty -- and government officials -- could face up to three years in prison or fines of up to five times the amount accepted if they are found to have received at least 1 million won from a person, whether it was in return for favors or not.
The court specified that “educators and the press have a huge impact on the country. So corruption among workers in these fields exerts long-lasting effects.”
It is acceptable to regulate these sectors under the law to reduce irregularities and build transparency in society.
Earlier, legislators had serious reservations about the proposed bill, but caved to public demand for the passage of the anticorruption law. Both the ruling party and opposition party legislators claimed that some parts of the law were so ambiguous as to invite a legal contest and that some parts of the law border on being unconstitutional.
Yet, the bill was passed on the last day of February’s extraordinary parliamentary session as legislators feared public backlash if the popular bill was not passed.
The bill was formerly proposed with good intentions. However, the end product is still hardly enforceable in the view of some legal scholars, leading some critics to charge that the legislators revised the original bill with the intention of making it unworkable.
A critical problem stemmed from lawmakers’ arbitrary use of their legislative power. The original bill proposed by Kim Young-ran, a former Supreme Court justice who previously headed the anticorruption panel, targeted only public officials, including lawmakers.
But legislators excluded themselves while including journalists and private school teachers in a self-serving and brazen abuse of their legislative power.
Irrespective of the Constitutional Court’s ruling, lawmakers should push for an amendment as there are loopholes involving their exclusion of themselves. The law is scheduled to take effect on Sept. 28.