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South Korean anti-corruption bill targets journalists, teachers

The law overreaches, said South Korean critics, but China's president cited it as a favorable example for his own government's drive against graft.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korean anti-corruption bill targets journalists, teachers
A 2013 ceremony at South Korea's National assembly for President Park Geun-hye. On Tuesday South Korean lawmakers passed an anticorruption bill that has sparked debate. File Photo by Keizo Mori/UPI | License Photo

SEOUL, March 6 (UPI) -- A South Korean anti-corruption law targeting a narrow category of journalists, government workers and schoolteachers has become a flashpoint of controversy for excessive rules against gift-giving.

The law, passed Tuesday in South Korean parliament, would allow courts to pass a maximum three-year prison sentence to those receiving gifts or cash donations in excess of $910. The sentence also applies to recipients of gifts that exceed an annual value of $2,700, South Korea's Herald Business reported.

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The law, which will take effect in October 2016, is named after lawmaker Kim Young-ran, who previously headed South Korea's Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission.

Critics in South Korea's opposition party said the law could exploit real cases of corruption to increase control over press freedom and more benign forms of gift-giving. They said the bill could fail to address more serious forms of graft, Yonhap reported.

Kim Young-rok, a spokesman for the liberal New Politics Alliance for Democracy said Friday the law also needs to be amended to guarantee the neutrality of South Korea's prosecution and national police.

The law's applicability to a narrow subset of South Korean professionals has raised the ire of the media, which has been targeted for its influence on public opinion.

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The bill, however, was praised by China's President Xi Jinping.

Citing China's People's Daily, Yonhap reported the bill was mentioned by Xi as an example of an anti-corruption drive relevant to China's own efforts to tighten restrictions against graft.

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