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[Op-Ed] Bribes for Parliamentary Nominations

Posted May. 15, 2009 08:02,   


A common practice in the past was for political parties to name those who gave huge bribes to the parties proportional representative candidates. Financially strapped opposition parties openly traded nominations for money. Though no cap is imposed on a party`s membership fee, election law bans buying a nomination for money. This means that a "special" membership fee donated to seek a nomination is illegal.

The Supreme Court yesterday upheld convictions handed down to Pro-Park Alliance co-leader Suh Chung-won, Yang Jeong-rye and Kim Noh-sik for violating the provision of election law banning political donations for candidate nominations. Passed in February last year, the provision says anyone who offers or receives money and other valuables, or promises to grant a party’s nomination for an election is subject to up to five years in prison and a fine of up to 10 million won (7,900 U.S. dollars). The provision seeks to prevent bribery for nominations disguised as membership fees.

Suh was indicted for receiving 3.21 billion won (2.53 million dollars) from Kim and Yang in exchange for promising to name them proportional representatives. The convictions for the three representatives, including Suh, resulted in their automatic ejection from parliament, reducing the number of lawmakers from 299 to 296. Under election law, if a proportional representative loses his or her seat for an election violation, the vacant seat cannot be filled by others.

Speculation had surfaced that the three would resign to hand their seats to other Pro-Park Alliance members on the waiting list for proportional representative slots, since a vacant seat stemming from resignation or defection can be taken over by others. The three stubbornly refused to resign or defect in pleading not guilty. Suh’s stubbornness must not have been welcomed by those on the waiting list and the alliance, which badly needs parliamentary seats to gain ground on the ruling Grand National Party. Ironically, however, the continued vacancies in the three seats will be welcomed by the public because of the tax savings.

Editorial Writer Park Seong-won (wpark@donga.com)