[EDITORIALS]Is panel void of probity?

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[EDITORIALS]Is panel void of probity?

Prosecutors have decided not to pursue allegations filed against three unnamed acting and former public officials by the Korea Independent Commission against Corruption, the government entity that was born in January as a result of the anti-corruption act passed last year. These allegations were the commission's first big official act and having their first effort annulled could mean a big setback for the panel in terms of public confidence.

The three officials that the commission reported to the prosecutors were identified only as an acting minister-level official of a constitutional law institution, an acting and a former official of an inspection agency. In April, the chairman of the commission, Kang Chul-kyu, held a news conference, announcing the commission's intention to file reports against these officials. The chairman told journalists at the news conference that the commission intended to report allegations that the minister-level official received bribes from his subordinates looking for favors in personnel administration from 1996 to 2001. Mr. Kang added that another official on the commission's list, the acting official of the inspection agency, faced allegations of not only having received bribes as often as two or three times a week but also of giving bribes to his superiors as well.

However, after investigating the matter, the prosecutors declared that the allegations against the three officials were unsubstantiated.

The panel did not report the truth. Some of the allegations were exaggerations, others were beyond the statute of limits. We are confused to see that the commission and the prosecution have drawn opposite conclusions in a time period of just two months.

The JoongAng Ilbo wrote in April at the time of the commission's report that there was a problem with the commission not identifying the persons under investigation. In its report, the Independent Commission against Corruption stated that its allegations were based on its examination of reports filed and witness testimony. The panel also voiced concern that considerable damage would be done to the individuals accused of wrongdoing should their identities be made known and the charges proven false.

This concern has become reality with the prosecutors finding the charges invalid. There are still ways for the commission to pursue its charges, such as applying for a trial. However, it is hard to refute the prosecutors' decision when they have reached their conclusion after investigating both sides of the story.

The commission might think that there were certain factors that the prosecutors discreetly left out, for one reason or other. What is more important than the rooting out of corruption, however, is the notion that government institutions should never abuse the human rights of anyone. The commission should not have publicly announced unproven, uncertified allegations before filing reports. Such reversal of order could provide ground for inappropriate and harmful competition or a power struggle between government agencies.

The Independent Commission against Corruption holds the duty of cleaning the public service of any rotten apples. In no case should the role of the commission in rooting out corruption be undermined. As important as its task is, however, that indicates how much more wary the commission should be of making any blunders that might affect its reputation. We expect more prudence and thoroughness from the Independent Commission against Corruption in the future.
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