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High-Ranking Officials Now Obliged to Report Source of Fortunes

High-Ranking Officials Now Obliged to Report Source of Fortunes

Posted November. 02, 2005 08:38,   


A revised bill to make public how high-ranking officials accumulated their fortunes was submitted Tuesday by 185 lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties, including Uri Party lawmaker Kim Han-gil. Presently, the Public Officials Ethics Act lets high-ranking officials report the amount of their fortunes only.

High-ranking officials here include the president, lawmakers, registered candidates for the head of local governments, and administrative officials such as ministers. In the event of property registration, the reform bill requires officials to offer specific information regarding when, how, and from where they acquired their fortunes.

Not only that, when it comes to fortunes in possession for more than five years, officials also must submit evidential documents that can testify information regarding how and from where those fortunes were acquired. Anyone who refuses to submit the documents or forges them will face a maximum one-year imprisonment or a 10 million won fine, according to the revised bill.

The revision was already signed off by several lawmakers, including all Democratic Labor Party and Uri Party lawmakers (except for Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan), and a few Grand National Party and Millennium Democratic Party lawmakers. Also, since the number of lawmakers who suggested the revised bill was well over a majority (150 seats), it is highly likely that the reform bill will pass through this regular session of the National Assembly.

If it passes, the bill will be put into practice starting late March 2006, and the high-ranking officials must make public how their fortunes were acquired within a month. For instance, a lawmaker who bought 300 million worth of real estate must submit documents that show how and where he or she managed to pay the price of the property.

However, there will probably be several cases difficult to prove the sources of the fortune. There is a great chance as well that a second upheaval of property disclosure could occur just like the previous scandal that happened right after the launch of the Kim Young-sam administration in 1993. At that time, several high-ranking officials resigned.

Meanwhile, the government consulted on another bill to expand the scale of verification on newly appointed high-ranking officials over third level. However, the bill was not presented to the National Assembly after a few ministers worried about possible side effects. The current bill requires verification on the appointed personnel only, but the revised bill includes their spouses, lineal ascendants, and descendants.

At a cabinet council meeting, vice prime minister and science and technology minister Oh Myung and Labor Minister Kim Dae-hwan objected to the revision, saying, “Expanding the scale would make it difficult to select competent personnel.”

Jung-Hun Kim Hyung-June Park jnghn@donga.com lovesong@donga.com