Just one year after the introduction of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act of Korea (the "Anti-Graft Act"), modifications to certain standards have been proposed. On December 11, 2017, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission (the "Commission") reviewed and agreed to a proposed amendment to the Enforcement Decree of the Anti-Graft Act (the "Proposed Amendment"). The Anti-Graft Act went into effect on September 28, 2016 and, under the Enforcement Decree of the Anti-Graft Act, public officials, educators and journalists, among others, could not accept (i) meals costing more than KRW 30,000, (ii) gifts worth more than KRW 50,000, or (iii) cash, flowers or similar presents for a wedding or funeral worth more than KRW 100,000.
Under the Proposed Amendment, the upper limit for meals will remain the same (KRW 30,000), while the upper limit for gifts will be relaxed to KRW 100,000, on condition that the gifts are agricultural products or processed goods with more than 50% of agricultural content. On the other hand, under the Proposed Amendment, the maximum amount of cash gifts for wedding or funeral will be reduced to KRW 50,000, while the maximum for wreaths and condolence flowers will remain at KRW 100,000. Furthermore, gift certificates have been excluded from the definition of "gifts," because they are similar to cash and also very difficult to trace.
Raising the upper limit for agricultural gifts has rekindled fierce debates. Before the law took effect last year, critics warned that it would dampen consumer sales, especially during South Korea's two key holiday periods seasons (the Korean
Thanksgiving holidays in the fall and the Lunar New Year holidays at the beginning of the year). According to research conducted by the Korea Rural Economic Institute nine months after the enforcement of the Anti-Graft Act, sales of agricultural produce gift sets during the 2017 Lunar New Year decreased 25.8% from the previous year. The agricultural industry continued to campaign against the Anti-Graft Act, which contributed to the Proposed Amendment. However, critics of the Proposed Amendment have expressed concern that allowing an exception for agricultural gifts could set a dangerous precedent for further changes to allow yet more expensive gifts. They claim that this would violate the spirit of the law itself, which is to stop bribery and corruption in South Korea.
Table below summarizes the changes under the Proposed Amendment.