It is such a simple argument against anti-corruption laws, you wonder why the Chamber of Commerce did not think of it first. In South Korea, where the country is trying to put into law sweeping anti-bribery legislation, there is a backlash coming from small-business owners. Yet it is not the small-business owners who want to engage in bribery and corruption to obtain business. It is the small-business owners who say their businesses will suffer if the country outlaws expensive dinner and expensive gift-giving, as it would dampen domestic consumption of these items. What a brilliant argument: Bribery increases business!
As reported in the Financial Times, the law would prohibit meals for government employees of more than $26USD, gifts of more than $43USD and condolence money of more than $86USD. Penalties for government officials who receive such gratuities in excess of these amounts could include a jail term of up to three years and a fine of up to $26,000USD.
However, even this modest change in South Korean law is under attack. Lee Won-sup, the director at the Korea Federation of Small Business, was quoted as saying, “We are worried about the negative impact the law will have on merchants’ sales,” adding, “the ceilings on meals and gifts should be raised, considering current consumer prices.” Consumer prices as a apology for corruption is a strange kind of brilliance, but brilliant all the same.
One might expect that in a country that is as rife with corruption as South Korea, businesses would back any attempt to level the playing field, as the country ranks 27th of the OECD’s 34 members in its perceived corruption index for 2015. Indeed, Chang Yoo-shik, was quoted in the piece that “Our connection-oriented culture provides fertile ground for corruption and injustice. People’s distrust of the public sector, including the judiciary, runs high, while our society suffers huge economic losses from bribery and favouritism.”
Obviously South Korean small businesses are not feeling the pinch from immigration, as did those in the United Kiingdom who voted to leave the European Union. All they want to keep is bribery and corruption in place.