Ethics and anti-corruption

Private sector appointments

When and how may former government employees take up appointments in the private sector and vice versa?

The Public Service Ethics Act restricts former government employees from taking up appointment in the private sector under certain circumstances. For example, the president, prime minister, cabinet members, members of the National Assembly, head of each local government, public officials of Grade 4 or higher, and officers over colonel or civil employees equivalent thereto may not take up employment, for three years following the termination of their public services, with a commercial private company of a certain size or above that is closely related to the work of the organisation or department to which they have belonged for five years.

In contrast, there is no specific regulation that restricts persons in the private sector from taking up appointments in the government.

Addressing corruption

How is domestic and foreign corruption addressed and what requirements are placed on contractors?

The Criminal Code, together with the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes and the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes, punishes corruption of public officials, including:

  • the act of abusing their position or authority or violating laws for benefits of themselves or any third party in connection with their duties;
  • the act of causing damage to public institutions in using public budgets, or in acquiring, managing or disposing of public property, or in concluding and performing a contract to which a public institution is a party, in violation of laws and regulations; and
  • the act of forcing, recommending, suggesting or inducing the execution or concealment of any of the aforementioned acts.

In addition, any person who offers, or promises to offer, or indicates willingness to offer, bribery to foreign officials in connection with their duties for the purpose of obtaining improper profits in international business transactions will be punished by imprisonment or fines under the Act on Combating Bribery of Foreign Officials in International Business Transactions.

Furthermore, the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act (commonly called the Kim Young-ran Act), which was enacted in 2016, punishes public officials who demand, accept or promise to accept anything of value of 1 million won (per single occasion) or 3 million won (per year), regardless of whether it is connected with their duties.

As another measure to prevent corruption, representatives and executives of defence contractors (and their subcontractors) and defence trade agents are required to submit integrity pledges and then fully comply with them. Defence contractors, companies or research institutions that breach integrity pledges may be restricted in their eligibility to participate in bidding for up to five years.


What are the registration requirements for lobbyists or commercial agents?

Except for lawyers, no one is allowed to lobby the government, public institutions or public officials on behalf of others for commercial purposes. The act of lobbying is interpreted as a lawyer’s job, and there is no separate lobbyist registration system.

However, a defence trade agent (ie, a person who intends to act as an intermediary or agent for a foreign company in the process of concluding and performing a contract between the foreign company and the DAPA) must be registered with the DAPA in advance.

Limitations on agents

Are there limitations on the use of agents or representatives that earn a commission on the transaction?

As a general rule, a foreign contractor is required to deal directly with the DAPA rather than through a defence trade agent in the procurement of more than US$2 million. However, when a foreign company inevitably needs to use a defence trade agent, it is commonly allowed to use one as long as there is no special issue.

As discussed above, a defence trade agent must register with the DAPA in advance. Acting as a defence trade agent without registration will lead to punishment.

Those who have been sentenced to imprisonment without forced labour, and where five years have not passed from the date when the execution of sentence was completed (or deemed to be completed), are not eligible to register as defence trade agents. For registration as a defence trade agent, a registration application must be filed with the DAPA accompanied by:

  • resumes of the representative and officers;
  • employment information such as numbers and names of total employees and employees related to the defence industry;
  • an integrity pledge; and
  • a security pledge.