In the KNUE community site called BBS, students of the Department of Geography Education wrote that they sell nakji jeotgal (salted small octopus) which they bought as souvenirs for their professors from their department field trip. The reason they sold it was their professors decided not to receive gifts. Why did they refuse? It’s because the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, hereinafter referred to as the anti-graft law, has been enforced since September 28th, 2016.
The anti-graft law is an act which prohibits inappropriate requests or bribery. It is also called “Kim Young-ran law” because Kim Young-ran suggested it when she was the chairman of Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission, also known as ACRC. If a person who works in one of the 40,919 institutions which are affected by the law accepts bribery or asks improper gifts, a fine can be charged or a criminal penalty can be given. The 40,919 organizations include central administrative agencies, public institutions, schools, and media outlets. Metropolitan and provincial offices of education, schools, and educational foundations are also affected by the law.
As said, the changes are occurring in the education field, especially in schools and colleges. Giving canned coffee to a professor became the first reported case. And, disciplinary action may be taken against an elementary school teacher who received a cake and soap from a parent of one of her students. Requiring teachers to fabricate grade and performance assessment is included in the improper solicitation. Relationships among teachers, students, and their parents often have relevance to grades and assessment, so they need to pay attention. For any reason, giving meals that are higher than 30,000 won, gifts exceeding 50,000 won, and congratulatory or condolence money over 100,000 won for teachers in schools is prohibited. Of course, if they are related to grade and evaluation, any attempts to give or take something are banned.
According to ACRC’s manual in reference to the anti-graft law, giving a present to a teacher is never permitted in order to prevent any possibility of falsifying the students’ records from improper solicitation. However, Park Gyeong-ho, the vice chairman of ACRC, said, “Students can give canned coffee or a carnation to a teacher in accordance with social custom.” It threw the society into confusion. Also, some people criticized the authoritative interpretation of law moving back and forth. Questions about authoritative interpretation which were received at ACRC and e-People, the Korean government’s online petition portal, counted up to 2,174 responses between September 28th and October 10th. If telephone inquiries are added, the number obviously increases.
In addition to the confusion, another problem is that affection between teachers and students may disappear. A professor of a national university in Busan said, “There are many professors who think it is comfortable not to meet students and receive nothing. I think love between them will dwindle finally.” However, many people agree on positive aspects of the anti-graft law. An official at an office of education said, “Most teachers and parents look positively on the situation regarding inconvenient relationships concerned with giving and taking gifts will vanish.”
The law has been enforced for a good purpose, but it seems that the society is now undergoing trial and error, since the law’s execution just kicked off. It is expected to need more time to successively settle down in our society.
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