The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission has approved a revision increasing the limits on money permitted to be spent on certain types of gifts for public officials.
The Kim Young-ran law enacted last year originally stipulated that no more than 50 thousand won could be spent on gifts of agricultural, livestock and fishery goods.
The aim was to prevent bribery in the form of expensive gifts.
However, after farmers and fishermen complained the law was severely impacting their livelihoods, the state commission agreed to double the gift limit to 100 thousand won at an all members meeting Monday.
As part of the same revision, the commission cut the maximum amount of condolence and congratulatory cash gifts by half to 50 thousand won. However, it allowed for the offering of flowers worth up to 100 thousand won, a measure aimed at helping flower growers.
Currently, the anti-graft law also prohibits public officials, journalists and private school teachers from receiving free meals of more than 30-thousand won in value, which has been kept as is.
The revisions will be made public before being submitted to the cabinet for approval.
At the commission’s meeting late last month, the revised plan was put to a vote but it was voted down.
After two weeks, the nearly identical revision was again put to members at the meeting. But this time, the revision was not put to a vote but was approved through an agreement among commission officials.
Instead of agreeing to the changes, the officials requested their "supplementary opinion" be disclosed stating that they fundamentally oppose attempts to weaken the original law’s purpose.
They also said that until the law stably takes root, additional easing of the regulations is not desirable.
The government seeks to implement the revision by the Lunar New Year in February.
The need for the revision was raised amid criticism from agricultural and livestock farmers and fishermen that the regulation seriously affected their revenue.
Giving gifts of produce on traditional holidays is customary in Korea and this spending is a major income source for farmers. The anti-graft law has dealt a blow to their revenue.
The agro-fisheries industry has welcomed the changes but say they don’t go far enough because most gift items such as domestic beef and dried corvina fish cost over 100-thousand won.
Restaurants are also unhappy as the 30-thousand won ceiling on meals is unchanged.
But others criticize the sharp easing of the law less than a year into its implementation. They worry that if similar demands are made in the future, the law will lose its effect on preventing corruption.