] A new amendment to the Customs Act has been proposed to increase transparency in the government’s licensing evaluations of duty-free operators.
A group of 10 lawmakers led by Rep. Kim Min-ki of the ruling Democratic Party submitted a revision bill last week for the Customs Act to bring clarity to the screening process of duty-free applications.
“The current law requires operators to be evaluated by a special committee to receive a duty-free license, but leaves the committee members’ composition and evaluation criteria completely under the president’s discretion, leading to criticisms about the fairness and predictability of the evaluations,” the lawmakers wrote in the proposal, as of May 31.
The bill also proposes a requirement of at least five years of experience in relevant fields in joining the evaluation committee. The committee will also be required to make members’ names public, changing the previous practice of having anonymous members, according to the bill.
The bill is to be first reviewed by the National Assembly’s Strategy and Finance Committee.
The proposal comes amid increasing concerns from the industry about the transparency of the evaluation process for a duty-free license that has often been considered a golden egg. Recently, the industry has been hit by intergovernmental tensions between Korea and China, which led to a sharp drop in the number of inbound Chinese tourists.
“There is no downside to transparency in duty-free license evaluations,” said a spokesman for one duty-free operator. “The bidding process is extremely competitive, and duty-free operators carefully plan their bids with pledges for investments and donations to the local community. It’s only fair that we know who is making the decisions, and based on what criteria.”
By Won Ho-jung/The Korea Herald (firstname.lastname@example.org