A lawmaker from the ruling party in South Korea reportedly is calling on representatives of local governments and public firms to stop accepting free overseas trips from credit card firms, calling the widespread practice “unethical” and akin to bribe-taking.

According to The Korea Times, Rep. Lee Eun-jae of the governing Grand National Party revealed in a study that 230 workers of public institutions, many of whom are accountants and financial officers, received free trips from credit card issuers in 2009. The study, based on documents obtained by the lawmaker, also suggested that card firms spent on an average of 1.76 million won (US$1,580 or 1,123 euros) per person to arrange trips for them.

The lawmaker cited the instance of two officials of Suwon City Hall receiving a free European tour worth 3.5 million won from the Industrial Bank of Korea Ltd., which spent roughly 30 million won in 2009 to arrange such trips for employees of public institutions. Moreover, two employees of the Ministry of National Defense received a free trip to Hong Kong worth 2 million won from Woori Bank Ltd., which spent 61 million won to arrange dozens of such complimentary trips in 2009, according to the study.

“Any mileages and rebates that state-run bodies receive from financial institutions for the use of corporate credit cards should be regarded as part of their income and thus rebates resulting from them should be included as part of the budget,” Lee reportedly said.

Her investigation also revealed that Shinhan Card Co. Ltd. and KB Card Co. Ltd. award free overseas trips to corporate clients when their annual credit card use totals more than 700 million won.

None of the card issuers responded to PaymentsSource requests for comment on Lee’s claims.

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