It is expected that the so-called Kim Young-ran Act for corruption prevention will cause a significant change in many areas of society. Under the new law, individuals who accept gifts or entertainment valued at over 1 million won can be prosecuted, even if those gifts cannot be proven to be transactional or connected with their jobs. Major business groups are already adopting stricter ethical management rules while changing their entertainment practices.
Still, controversy remains surrounding the lack of equity in the application of the law and the ambiguity of the law itself. Not a few people are criticizing it as a populist bill, demanding it be revised even before implementation, whereas others are calling for the passage of the bill as for a great cause.
During discussions at the National Assembly, the scope of application was narrowed from the whole family to the spouse of a person stipulated in the civil law, and the number of the people subject to the bill was decreased from approximately 18 million to 3 million. However, once the bill takes effect in September 2016, any public employee receiving money or valuables of over 1 million won are to face up to three years in prison regardless of the nature of the bribe. Kickbacks are to be punished as well, which means bureaucratic society is facing a fundamental shift.
A bribe, according to the Kim Young-ran Act, includes money paid for meals and drinks, memberships to golf clubs and the like, and hotel vouchers, all of which have constituted customary entertainment in Korea. In addition, requests for licensing and personnel appointments, which have so far not been viewed as having monetary value, are to be subject to punishment as well.
Most small and medium businesses are welcoming the act in that it will lead to fair competition in the government procurement market and government-led projects. Also, they are anticipating that it will help address the problems caused by their subordinate position in supply and purchasing to and from big businesses.