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Criticism Flares Up Over Electoral Law Amendment

Posted December. 23, 2003 22:45,   


Politicians face a barrage of criticism by the National Election Committee (NEC), scholars, and civil society groups over the electoral law amendment that they are pushing through.

The Pan-National Conference for Political Reforms, an umbrella of civil society groups, and the electoral regulatory body alike criticized the proposed repealing of a clause committing candidates to turn in receipts of political donations to the NEC as the worst case of retrogressive change.

While the conference has proposed three types of receipts to be issued for a political donation for the donator, the party, and the NEC respectively, some legislators submitted a bill limiting the issuance of receipts for the regulatory watchdog to large donations that exceed a one-time sum of one million won and an annualized total of five million won.

By implication, a donor who makes a donation of 700,000 won a month or an annual total of 8.4 million won, does not have to turn in his records to the NEC while the fact that he donates more than five million won a year will safely stay between the donor and the politician. As a result the clause has loopholes.

The ban on all-time provision of transport and meals and stipends, another proposal the conference made to stop money elections, fell on deaf ears.

While politicians would say that such bans represent excessive regulations which are not easily enforced, it raises criticism saying that they want to hold on to an effective method to retain constituency.

The proposal for protection of whistleblowers, which was designed to facilitate reports on electoral irregularities, were not reflected in the bill. Neither was another proposal to allow the Korea Financial Intelligence Unit to track financial transactions of politicians to stop such outlandish ways of raising illicit funds as truckloads of cash.

“We are relieved of a great anxiety at least because political attempts to limit the NEC’s power have now failed,” said an NEC worker and went on say, “Enforcing the NEC has appeared to be extremely difficult from the onset of the debate.”

At a press conference on December 23, the pan-national conference urged politicians to accept its proposals. Prof. Park Se-il, who chairs the pan-national conference, said, “The ad hoc committee for political reforms at the National Assembly has reneged on the promise of thorough political reform and began to gloss over the debate itself.” He added, “There are concerns that a retrogressive law which is cleansed of any disadvantageous clauses for politicians will take effect.”

Ho-Won Choi bestiger@donga.com