Conflict of interests
We commit to improve relevant laws and regulations to strengthen the system to prevent conflict of interests of public officials and to enable public officials to reject their superiors’ illegal instructions.
This commitment is specific as it focuses on improving laws and regulations in conflicts of interest.
This commitment can be measured by checking whether the system to prevent conflicts of interests by public officials has been implemented and whether the ability of public officials to reject their superiors’ illegal instructions has been improved and strengthened.
In January 2018, the ACRC amended the code of conduct for public officials, a presidential decree, to pre-emptively introduce and implement provisions to prevent conflicts of interests in the activities of public officials in the executive branch. In January 2020, the bill for prevention of public officials’ conflict of interest was created and submitted to the National Assembly. 1 It sets forth specific codes of conduct that public officials should abide by in conflicts of interest situations when performing public duties. The bill was initially a part of the government bill for the enactment of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, but it was scuttled during the deliberation process at the National Assembly.1 The bill was not processed during the 20th National Assembly, and in June 2020, it was resubmitted to the 21st National Assembly.1 The newly submitted bill includes eight specific standards of behaviour that public officials should comply with to improve fairness in the process of performance of official duties. More specifically, public officials who perform duties, such as licensing, interrogation, inspection, budgeting, funding, investigation, conducting trials, auditing or involved with employment and promotion, should disclose the fact that they have private interests with a related duty to the head of their agency within five days after discovering the fact and should request exclusion from performing the duty concerned. In addition, to prohibit illegitimate transactions between public officials and parties related to their duties – for example, where a public official is involved in money transactions, marketable securities and property – the official should disclose the issue to the head of their agency. Failure to report conflicts of interest can result in a penalty of up to KRW 20 million (US$16,000). This bill particularly stipulates that much stricter preventive rules would apply to high-ranking officials and those in charge of duties especially vulnerable to corruption, including personnel management and contracting. The bill also includes a provision aimed at prohibiting public officials from conducting external activities that may impede the fair performance of their duties, such as advising to parties related to their duties for a quid pro quo, or using goods, vehicles, land and facilities of public agencies for private gain. While many efforts have been made to regulate conflict of interests for the public officials, the bill still did not pass the 21st National Assembly.
Challenges to effective commitment implementation
The act on prevention of conflict of interest was submitted to the National Assembly, but the bill was abolished as the 20th National Assembly expired without reaching a resolution on the bill. The government resubmitted the bill, but the National Assembly failed to legislate it. Therefore, the ACRC submitted the bill again to the 21st National Assembly, which started in 2020. The National Assembly’s discussion of the bill is an important challenge.
Opportunities to accelerate commitment implementation
If the act on prevention of conflict of interests is legislated, it will be an important law towards alleviating corruption in the public sector and eliminating unfair practices.
- ACRC, Enforcement Decree of Act on Prohibition of False Claims for Public Funds and Recovery of Illicit Profits, https://www.acrc.go.kr/en/board.do?command=searchDetail&method=searchDetailViewInc&menuId=020501&boardNum=819772019
(logged in as editor)