[EDITORIALS]Usual suspects in charge

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[EDITORIALS]Usual suspects in charge

With the stench of corruption surrounding President Kim Dae-jung, the Presidential Commission Against Corruption was inaugurated Friday, and the anti-Corruption Act took effect.

The launching of the commission was ill-fated. High-ranking officials of the Blue House, the prosecution, the police, the National Intelligence Service and the military are either implicated or rumored to be involved in a series of financial fraud cases, turning the commission into a joke at birth. The commission's goal of "preventing corruption" is almost as comical. The panel's catch phrase, "Clean, Healthy and Bright Nation," rings with embarrassment.

Paradoxically, the state of things in the nation has created great expectations for the commission. The fact that such a panel is needed demonstrates that corruption among civil servants has been deep-rooted despite the existence of investigative authorities, such as the Prosecutors Office, the National Police and the Board of Audit and Inspection. In cases where prosecutors fail to indict officials for alleged wrongdoing, the commission can request that a higher court ask the prosecution for an indictment. This stipulation seems to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A certain amount of scorn is directed at the commission, which has no direct investigative powers. But the string of corruption cases shows that even if an agency has investigative power, this does not determine its will to root out corruption. Recent corruption cases show that high officials of law-enforcement organs protected and concealed corrupt businessmen, receiving kickbacks in some cases.

Against this background, the powers bestowed on the commission - the right to file complaints against the prosecution, the right to beseech a higher court to ask the prosecution to carry out an indictment and the right to request the reopening of an investigation - are not small. If citizens are aware of their right to report misdeeds to the commission, the panel can be a forceful agency to tackle wrongdoing by officials. Neither the size of the commission's staff nor the lack of supporting laws will matter if the commission, as Chairman Kang Chul-gyu pledged, tackles the "small and big irregularities" of high-ranking officials first.

A sense of mission should be in ascendancy.
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