Kim Kwang-joon, according to local Korean vernaculars, was arrested on Monday for receiving bribes. The prosecutor is suspected of receiving close to USD 1,000,000 in bribes relating to a pyramid scheme and influence peddling for Eugene Group (Korean conglomerate).
This type of case occurs throughout the world, but in Korea the punishment, rarely, fits the crime. Korea must realize that the most serious crimes to the nation are crimes concerning government corruption. These crimes go to the very fabric of the Korean system of government, a system that is increasingly not trusted by the population.
Many of the young in society believe that the country is ruled (maybe rightfully) by a handful in society – this handful is believed to be above the law. When this risk from the youth is realized, the punishment will increase and more in the population will fear the wrath of law enforcement. To date, we have present presidents and chairmen of major Korean conglomerates that have served time in jail for bribery, accounting fraud and other like crimes.
They are still leading these companies, because of a misplaced notion that they are the only people capable of running these companies. Seemingly in a developed economy, we can find more than just a handful of kids of founders to run Korean conglomerates. We, also, have practicing lawyers that have served time in jail and retired judges that have accepted “gratuities” that are still practicing law. Do we need these individuals? Is it unfair to strip them of their law license?
This situation, in Korea, is far from typical in our world and maybe Korea should move more to the Western norm. If this prosecutor is convicted, he will receive a few years in jail and will be practicing law a few years after he serves his time. Is this the right solution to Korea’s corruption problem?
Sean Hayes may be contacted at: SeanHayes@ipglegal.com.
Sean Hayes is co-chair of the Korea Practice Team at IPG Legal. He is the only non-Korean to have worked as an attorney for the Korean court system (Constitutional Court of Korea) and one of the first non-Koreans to be a regular member of a Korean law faculty.
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