Newspaper article International New York Times

South Korea Limits Gifts in Effort to Curb Corruption

Newspaper article International New York Times

South Korea Limits Gifts in Effort to Curb Corruption

Article excerpt

The law calls for up to three years in prison for journalists, teachers and public servants who accept single cash donations or gifts valued at more than a million won, or about $910.

The National Assembly of South Korea passed an anticorruption law on Tuesday that calls for up to three years in prison for journalists, teachers and public servants who accept single cash donations or gifts valued at more than a million won, or about $910.

Passage of the law signaled a milestone in the country, where bestowing and receiving envelopes of cash and other gifts have long been part of the culture -- and a suspected channel of bribery.

In South Korea, businesspeople, politicians and senior government officials often have expensive dinners, send gift sets during holidays and make cash donations at weddings and funerals, making it difficult to determine what amounts to corruption and what should be accepted as part of social etiquette.

Until now, people have been punished for graft only when it was established in court that they had accepted a gift in return for doing a specific favor, like helping the giver obtain a government license or school admission.

Such a stringent legal requirement has raised concerns that much of the corruption in the country has gone unpunished, especially the so-called sponsorship relationships that some businesspeople and politicians were said to maintain with prosecutors, government officials and journalists. …

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