South Korea to cut back on fines as economy falters

Tue Dec 16, 2008 3:46am EST
 
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SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said Tuesday it plans to cut by as much as 50 percent the amount of money lower income people have to pay in fines for minor offences to help them cope with the economic downturn, a ministry said Tuesday.

The Justice Ministry said in a statement it also planned to allow offenders who cannot afford to pay fines of under 3 million won ($2,200) to instead opt for community service.

And it will crack down on those who try to exploit people down on their luck through illegal loan scams.

"This cataclysmic economic crisis has taken a heavy toll on the livelihood of the (working class) public," the ministry said.

It would not let low-income offenders off the hook for crimes but would not increase the burden of poverty.

It said only a small portion of offenders would be eligible for the provisions of the plan, which would also include the self-employed who are struggling to make ends meet.

South Korea's export-driven economy has been hit hard by the global economic slowdown, which has driven up unemployment and bankruptcies.

"Reducing fines and the other measures are not a cure-all. But I believe this is the time when even a little bit of help could mean a lot to certain people," said Shin Ja-yong, a Justice Ministry prosecutor.

(Reporting by Kim Junghyun; Writing by Jon Herskovitz)