South Korea has introduced a tough anti-corruption bill for government officials after dozens of reports of illegal bribes and favours.

Korea’s state cabinet approved the bill this week, it was proposed by former chair of the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, Kim Young-ran.

Some critics say the bill’s penalties are too harsh. Officials caught accepting bribes will face up to three years in prison and nearly $US27,000 in fines. Officials found taking bribes which are not even related to their departments will be fined up to five times the amount in kickbacks they received.

The bill also prohibits making illegal requests of civil servants through middlemen, and aims to stamp out preferential treatment in the public service hiring process.

Some critics say the bill may just be for show though, with reports the wording is vague enough to miss plenty of reprehensible behaviour.