Is $90 Enough for a Wedding Gift in South Korea?
South Korea is struggling with a serious corruption problem: it ranked 37th in Transparency International’s 2015 Corruption Perceptions Index; its president is under criminal investigation for fraud; and millions of citizens are taking to the streets to protest the government’s culture of corruption.
In light of the public outcry, South Korea has begun to take a series of corrective actions. Previously, we covered the new South Korean anti-corruption law that has spawned the $25.99 dinner. In addition to targeting meals, the new South Korean bribery law is also seeking to curtail corruption involving wedding gifts, funeral gifts, and gifts in general:
Besides the restrictions on meals, the law bars people in the targeted professions and their spouses — estimated to be four million, out of a total population of 51 million — from accepting any gift worth more than $45 (or $90 at weddings or funerals), if a conflict of interest could exist. And with a few exceptions, people in those fields are simply forbidden to accept any gift worth more than $910.
While the jury is still out on whether the law will actually curb bribery, it is already showing unintended consequences in the form of wedding-gift whistleblowers:
A pair of aspiring paparazzi staked out two weddings in Seoul’s high-end Gangnam district recently, but they weren’t looking for celebrities. Their target: officials receiving gifts that might violate South Korea’s tough new anti-corruption law…With rewards worth up to 200 million won ($181,691), it is also fueling a cottage industry of camera-wielding, receipt-scavenging vigilantes targeting expensive restaurants and fancy weddings in a country with a deep tradition of entertaining and gift-giving.
Initial reports suggest the law may have negative impacts on certain South Korean businesses, including golf courses, restaurants, and retailers. The Korea Economic Research Institute says such industries may lose about 11.6 trillion won ($10.6 billion) a year. However, the Hyundai Research Institute, which was tasked with researching the issue for the anti-corruption commission, has indicated that demand for gifts is falling less than 1 percent.