[EDITORIALS]Empty seats weaken panels

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[EDITORIALS]Empty seats weaken panels

The Public Fund Oversight Committee hobbles along. The committee oversees the use and recovery of the 156 trillion won ($129.7 billion) that has been spent to bail out shaky financial institutions since the 1997 financial crisis.

Established under a special law in February 2001 as an affiliate of the Ministry of Finance and Economy, the oversight panel is composed of three members representing the administration and five other civilians. The three government members are the finance and economy minister, planning and budget minister and the chairman of the Financial Supervisory Commission. The five civilian commissioners are recommended by each of the parliamentary, administrative and judiciary branches of the government. The purpose of filling five committee seats with civilian members is to ensure checks and balances with the government representatives during the process of deliberating the use of taxpayers' money.

Resignations have left two civilian seats vacant. Among the three remaining civilian members, Kang Kum-sik, the committee's chairman, had indicated that he planned to step down to run in the parliamentary by-election. If the committee convenes without them, government commissioners will hold the edge.

Nevertheless, Mr. Kang aired a bigger problem on Tuesday. He said that his resignation had not been accepted yet and that he would continue to be the chairman until his successor is selected. The Tuesday meeting was important because it discussed the selection of a bidder to take over Seoul Bank. However, the fact that Mr. Kang returned to the post of the chairman after he failed to win a Millennium Democratic Party nomination for the by-election raises the question of whether such behavior is in line with the ethics of a public official.

The government is responsible for the poor operation of government-affiliated panels. The head of the Korea Trade Commission resigned last month over Chinese garlic imports. The government should have been quick to appoint his successor. The government said nobody was willing to take the trade commissioner's job. But it is only an excuse that reveals the government's ineptitude. How can a committee perform its task when it cannot fill its empty seats?
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