By Max Voldman
A new South Korean anti-corruption law went into effect this week. The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act will limit the ability of about four million public servants, journalists and teachers to receive gifts. The implementation of this law follows four years of Parliamentary debate and several suits challenging it in the courts. Specifically, the law provides that certain government-employed individuals are prohibited from receiving gifts from job-related contacts of $44 dollars or more, meals of $26 dollars or more, and wedding/funeral gifts of $88 dollars or more. Corruption has been a major problem in South Korea with recent indictments that include a high profile prosecutor, the chairmen of Samsung and Hyundai, and two professional baseball players. In 2015 South Korea ranked 37th on the World Corruption Perception Index and 123rd on the transparency report, both from the World Economic Forum.
The law also includes a provision for whistleblower rewards up to $182,000 for the reporting of information related to payments made illegal by the law. Korean law makers believe that the whistleblower provision will increase the law’s effectiveness by deterring violations.
As an apparent result of the law, department stores and other retailers in Seoul are significantly increasing the amount of available gifts costing just under the $44 dollar threshold. Restaurants are also joining in on the trend with some upscale restaurants now offering “Kim Young Ran Dinner Specials,” named for the drafter of the law and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. A Kim Young Ran dinner special will run you a few pennies under the 26 dollar limit.
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