SEOUL, Feb. 26 (Korea Bizwire) – A special bank has been set up to lend money to poor criminals who are fined but have to endure prison labor because they have no money to pay the penalties.
Citizens’ Solidarity for Human Rights announced on February 26 that it established the “Jean Valjean Bank” to help poor minor offenders by offering interest-free loans. Teen heads of households, minors and the working poor who are fined but cannot afford to pay, can borrow money from the bank.
The financial institution was officially launched on February 25 after obtaining approval from the National Tax Service.
Up to 3 million won can be lent to each individual, and borrowers have a year to repay the debt after a six-month grace period.
The seed money for the loans will be collected through fund-raising. Currently, 6 million won has been collected, and the bank will begin operations once it has amassed 10 million won.
Criminals who commit serious offences such as murder, robbery, sexual crimes and paying bribes, as well as habitual offenders will not be eligible for loans.
The bank will be headed by civil activist Hong Se-hwa, and supervised by Bishop Kang U-il of the Catholic diocese of Jeju.
Under current law, one who is sentenced to pay a financial penalty should pay the fine in full in 30 days.
The human rights group said, “Annually, more than 40,000 minor offenders are confined in prisons as they cannot pay their fines. We should improve the society in which income inequality leads to unequal punishment.”
By John Choi (firstname.lastname@example.org)