[EDITORIALS] Drug allegation: Dig deeper

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[EDITORIALS] Drug allegation: Dig deeper

The decision by the former minister of health and welfare, Lee Tae-bok, not to show up for a parliamentary hearing Thursday is baffling. The hearing was aimed at finding out whether multinational pharmaceutical companies lobbied and pressured the Korean government to nullify a proposed drug pricing plan. Mr. Lee was one of six witnesses called to testify. We believe it was irresponsible of him to have raised the allegation that he was fired during the recent cabinet reshuffle because he refused the multinational companies' demands and then not show up for a parliamentary hearing aimed at finding out whether his assertion is true.

The ramifications of Mr. Lee's striking statement that pharmaceutical companies in and out of Korea "seriously resisted" the Korean government's drug pricing policy reform and that they have pressured the government through diverse routes have ballooned since he made the allegations immediately after he was sacked. A set of fresh accusations on the alleged lobbying has been revealed, and, in the end, the issue came to be debated in the National Assembly.

Representative Kim Hong-shin of the opposition Grand National Party has said that the United States and multinational pharmaceutical companies pressured the Korean government regarding the drug pricing policy on 26 different occasions since May and that the Korean government eventually succumbed to their requests. If these assertions are true, not only would we be distrustful of the government's policy, but also the actions would amount to a breach of national sovereignty.

Accordingly, the focus of the parliamentary investigation should have been who wielded the pressure, whether the policy-making process was distorted, and whether the Blue House was involved in the matter.

The matter should be dealt with at a larger hearing or through a parliamentary audit to uncover the full truth.

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