[EDITORIALS]Fix the Problem, Not the Bad NewsIt is reported that the government pressured a research institute not to release a legitimate piece of research work. A scholar at the Korea Institute of Public Finance studied the effect of public bailout funds to financial institutions on the government budget, but the Ministry of Finance and Economy and the Office of the President blocked release of the paper, in effect burying it for good. The government said the report "deals with sensitive issues," according to reports.
If there is any truth to the reports, we believe an unthinkable thing has happened. The work of academics should not be evaluated subjectively by the government but by other academics based on their own standards. The paper is reported to say, "If recovery of the bailout funds does not go as planned, the people will have to put up an amount equivalent to 29 percent of the income tax they pay to prevent the national economy from collapsing." The government has said all along that the bailout funds are only a guarantee made by the government and will not add to the national debt.
It is likely that the government did not like the study's conclusions and was disturbed about its implications. Nevertheless, its move to block the paper's release, if true, is unacceptable in that it suppresses the creative and critical work of academics. And it runs directly against what the government has been saying about the independence and neutrality of state-funded think tanks.
Another point that alarms us is the researcher's assertion that the 104 trillion won ($80 billion) in public funds used to bail out troubled financial institutions is not only guaranteed by the government but could very well become part of the national debt that taxpayers will eventually have to foot the bill for. The point has already been raised by other researchers, but we believe the government has been avoiding the issue, quick to engage in political squabble with the opposition about what can and cannot be regarded as national debt.
Rather than muzzling the research results of academics, the government should try to minimize the taxpayer burden of pumping money into bad financial companies by seeking to recover what is already pumped in. The government should also prepare for the worst and formulate a contingency plan, and in that sense encourage the "pessimistic" works of researchers, which can alleviate the shock to the people.