[EDITORIALS]Regional-Only Inspections Justified

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[EDITORIALS]Regional-Only Inspections Justified

The Association of Korea Government Officials has refused to have its regional-only work inspected by the National Assembly. A fiasco such as this at the beginning of the parliamentary probe concerns us greatly. The association held a press conference Monday at the Seoul Metropolitan Government offices and declared in a statement, with guidelines, how to physically bar the lawmakers from the inspection halls if the National Assembly declines to promise not to inspect its regional-only work. Regional branches of the association in seven metropolitan cities including Seoul, Taegu and Inchon, and some central government branches such as the Ministry of Construction and Transportation, also are said to have agreed on the move. Physical clashes between the National Assembly lawmakers and public servants belonging to the association are expected.

The association has claimed for a few years that only 10 percent of the work of its regional governments are national and that the parliamentary probe into the other 90 percent of its work is in violation of local government laws. The article of the Local Autonomy Act applicable to the Assembly's inspection stipulates that among the regional governments, metropolitan cities and provinces are subject to the probe but, it clearly stipulates, the probes are limited until "local councils are formed to inspect on their own the local governments." With the establishment of local councils in 1991, this article is no longer applicable, the association claims.

There are, of course, elements in the claims made by the association that are legitimate. Double inspection of its regional work, following the inspection by the local councils, is indeed not reasonable. There are also areas for improvement in the attitude of lawmakers who demand extensive duplicate information and informations to cater to their constituents or individual privileges to the local governments. However, in real work, it is difficult to clearly separate the work that is national and regional-only. Further, local governments are still in their embryonic stage. Development projects with problems and corruption are still boiling nonstop in the local governments. About 60 heads of metropolitan, provincial and county governments are said to have been prosecuted on charges of corruption and violation of election laws since the election of heads of local governments was introduced in 1995. This shows the severity of corruption in local governments.

Therefore, until the local governments firmly take root, inspection and monitoring at the national level is necessary. Laws governing national civil servants forbids collective action by civil servants. Nonetheless, if local bureaucrats engage in collective action to hamper the parliamentary probe on the pretext that the inspection intrudes into the areas of work not under its jurisdiction, who would support them? In some circles, some suspect that the association, which is fighting to gain its legal status as a union, is trying to emphasize its existence by taking a hard-line stance.

There are even reports that say the association is attempting to draw disciplinary action in order to create a pretext for the resubmission of a constitutional appeal claiming that the parliamentary probe into regional-only work is unconstitutional. Its appeal last March to the Constitutional Court was dismissed on grounds of "inappropriate submitter." The association and its metropolitan and provincial branches should not fight against the probe as if it were an annual event, but seek step-by-step improvement measures.
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