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Lawmakers Walking a Fine Line

Posted May. 31, 2007 03:57,   


Prosecutor’s standards on lawmakers’ crimes have become much stricter compared to those of the past. Nowadays, prosecutors increasingly tend to indict lawmakers for receiving political donations or for libel cases caused by their legislative activities.

Since president Roh took power, 122 lawmakers have been taken to court, showing a clear trend.

This newspaper’s legal team and digital news team carried out a study on 240 lawmakers indicted since 1993 and concluded that in the past, representatives’ crimes mainly consisted of receiving bribes; but nowadays, lawmakers are violating laws in elections and in political funding.

This is a sign for those lawmakers who walk the fine line between legal and illegal to behave themselves.

Rigorous standards, many charges-

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office booked without physical detention GNP lawmakers Goh Gyeong-hwa, Kim Byung-ho on charges of receiving 10 million won each from the former leader of the Korean Medical Association, Jang Dong-ik (59).

They said, “We received formal donations via proper channels and even issued receipts for the donations.” However, the prosecutors’ indicted them anyway, saying “The money paid was not a pure donation. So those involved should be punished.” In the past, lawmakers were rarely investigated, not to mention being prosecuted for publicly receiving money through their bank accounts.”

By booking the lawmakers, the prosecutors have sent a clear warning message to politicians that even though donations are made for plausible causes, if there is any unmet legal standard, they will not let it slide.

According to this newspaper’s own study, there have been a total of 240 legislators taken to the court since 1993. During the Kim Young-sam (YS) administration, of the 46 indicted lawmakers, 20 (43.5%) were booked for taking bribes, whereas 14 (30.4%) were booked for breaking election laws and one was for breaching laws on political funding.

During the Kim Dae-jung (DJ) administration, 72 lawmakers were prosecuted. Fourteen (19.4%) were indicted for taking bribes and 40 (56.3%) for violating election laws. Nine (12.7%) were indicted for breaching laws on political funding.

Under the Roh Moo-hyun administration, out of a total of 122, 63 (51.6%) were in violation of election laws and 32 (25.6%) were in breach of political funding laws. However, there were only 18 (14.4%) found to be taking money under the table.

Recently, the prosecution indicted lawmaker Noh Hoi-chan of the Democratic Labor Party (DLP) for libel, after he divulged the real names of people whose voices were illegally recorded onto cassette tape by the National Security Planning Agency. Lawmaker Lee Young-soon of the DLP was also indicted for hacking a municipal government’s computer network. These cases are unprecedented.

Lawmaker Kim Jong-ryul was booked because when he worked as a lawyer, he received money from his partner after signing a legal advisory contract with the partner, who was trying to buy a piece of land in Dankook University, in Kim’s legal office’s name.

A prosecutor said, “It is a trend that politicians are facing more severe consequences for the same violation. And it is about time we indicted all public officials for going on a free trip or receiving gifts as is done in Japan.”

More lawmakers from the ruling party were expelled from their parliament seats than opposition party makers. Over the last 13 years, the number of lawmakers stripped of their seats was 37, all of whom were sentenced to heavier punishments. During the Kim Young-sam administration, a total of nine legislators lost their seats, including four who lost theirs when the Hanbo scandal came to light.

During the Kim Dae-jung administration a total of eight lawmakers lost their jobs for violating election laws. During the current administration, 18 parliamentarians were kicked out of their seats; 11 of them for breaching election laws during the general and local elections, which were held concurrently.

More lawmakers from the ruling party lost their job during the 13-year period than from the opposition parties.

During the YS administration, 27 ruling party lawmakers and 19 opposition party lawmakers lost their jobs. While under the DJ government, 35 from the ruling party and 37 from the opposition parties lost their jobs. During the current administration, because of the sweeping 2003 crackdown on illegal funding for the presidential election, 76 from the ruling party and 46 from the opposition parties lost their seats in the National Assembly.

Decentralization of investigation into politicians-

In the past, investigations into political figures were invariably carried out by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office or the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office.

During the YS administration, 29 of the 46 indicted legislators were looked into either by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office or the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office. Only 16 were preceded by the Local Prosecutors’ Offices.

During the DJ administration, of the 72 indicted, 28 of them were preceded by the Central Investigation Department of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office and nine were indicted by the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office. Only 14 were preceded by local prosecutors’ offices.

However, this situation was reversed during the current government. Since 2003, of the 122 lawmakers indicted, 72 of them were investigated and booked by the local prosecutors’ offices. Only 44 were indicted by either the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office or the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office.