South Korea’s president Park Geun-hye has again called for the country to take a tough stance on corruption after a former naval chief has been questioned over his alleged involvement in a bribery case.
Retired Admiral Hwang Ki-chul is embroiled in an alleged corruption case involving bribery during the 2009 bidding process for the domestically built salvage ship Tongyeong. Hwang and several other military officers are accused of accepting bribes to overlook faulty parts being supplied for the project.
It is the latest scandal in a string of corruption cases, and Park has encouraged Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo with his declared “all-out war” on corruption.
The country’s National Assembly has recently passed an anti-corruption bill that eliminates the need to prove a direct link between a gift and a favor that followed to secure a conviction, says Yonhap newsagency. It sets hefty fines and up to three years imprisonment for convicted public officials, journalists and private school teachers.
Last year Transparency International ranked South Korea poorly: ranking it 46 out of 177 countries on poor performance. While South Korea is considered to have a significant corruption problem, it is also a nation where gift giving is a common way of spreading goodwill.
On April 16, 2014, the South Korean passenger ferry Sewol capsized off the southwest coast of South Korea. Around 250 people, mostly school children, died and the tragedy has led to unprecedented social and political upheaval in the country.
In the aftermath, Park referred to corruption as an evil that she has not fought against hard enough. She indicated her commitment to crack down on the “bureaucratic mafia” that allowed safety breaches implicated in the Sewol tragedy.
Some South Korean businessmen have also been called to court in Brazil for questioning in a case of alleged bribery of former Petrobras executives.
With Park’s approval, the new law will take effect from October 2016.