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South Korea: Constitutional Court Rejects Petition on Corruption Law

(Sept. 14, 2016) The Act on the Prohibition of Unjust Solicitation and Giving and Receiving of Money, Goods, etc. (Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, Act No. 13278) was promulgated in South Korea on March 27, 2015. (Sayuri Umeda, South Korea: Controversial Anti-Corruption Law Promulgated, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Apr. 16, 2015).)  After the National Assembly passed the Act, journalists’ associations filed a petition with the Constitutional Court, claiming that the inclusion of journalists and teachers at private schools as subject to the provisions of the Act was unconstitutional.  (Id.)

On July 28, 2016, the Constitutional Court rejected all the petitioners’ claims and upheld the Act.  (2015 Hunma 236, Con. Ct. (July 28, 2016), Constitutional Court website (in Korean).)  The Court ruled that the law does not violate the freedom of action and equal rights guaranteed in the Constitution by including journalists and private school workers within the scope of “public officials.”  (Myo-ja Ser, Constitutional Court Upholds Antigraft Law, KOREA JOONGANG DAILY (July 29, 2016).)

The Act is scheduled to come into force on September 28, 2016.  On May 13, 2016, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (ACRC) announced that it had drawn up a draft Enforcement Decree for the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act that stipulates detailed guidelines for the Act.  (What’s New: ACRC Announces Draft Enforcement Decree of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, ACRC (May 13, 2016).)  The Act states that the limits on the value of food and drink, gifts, or other items that may legally be offered to facilitate the performance of duties or to fulfill social obligations, rituals, or celebrations and funerals would be determined by decree.  The draft Decree stated that the acceptable limits were KRW30,000 (about US$27) for food, KRW50,000 (about US$45) for gifts, and KRW100,000 (about US$90) for Celebrations and funerals.  (Id.)

The enforcement of the Act “is expected to bring major changes to Korean society where gifts and expensive meals still constitute vital elements of business.”  (Min-ho Jung & Ha-young Choi, Korea Faces Major Changes on Anti-Graft Law, KOREA TIMES (July 30, 2016).)