If such acts occur, there are material damages such as the cost of unnecessary newspaper print and TV coverage, but there is also immaterial damage such as an increase in fear among voters, according to the ministry. "We have been lenient toward the mentally challenged in the past but they will not be an exception from now on." the an official in a press release.
Guardians, institutes and even the media who provide a supportive environment for such people will also be punished if these individuals make such calls.
The number of prank political runs and calls to change society seemed to be on the decline after 2009 under President Lee Myung-bak's very popular leadership – there were 57 false calls in 2009, 43 in 2010 and 33 in 2011. But the numbers have already reached 28 in the first half of this year and they are expected to exceed last year's total by the time the elections arrive.
Under the new penalties, people who interrupt the operation of political life by making prank election runs and calls to change society will face a maximum five years in prison and a fine of up to 30 million won.
"We will actively promote this new policy to the public to prevent further prank calls. We expect the number of callers to decrease with the new measures and this will reduce voter inconvenience." a ministry official said.
Prank callers to face heavy penalty
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