[INSIGHT]Korea's dysfunction can be treated

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[INSIGHT]Korea's dysfunction can be treated

Allegations of several cases of corruption are sweeping the government. The Korea National Police Agency and the National Intelligence Service have already been filled with corruption and similar allegations have reached even the door of the Blue House. The public's mistrust of our government has overflowed and several vital national functions have either been paralyzed or fallen due to a lack of moral principles. National affairs in our country are not operating properly. I think the status quo has passed beyond the state of an administrative emergency. This problem has become a national emergency.

Let's look at some of the examples. First, this is a country where even the Blue House can't make much use of the information provided by the National Intelligence Service. Though the intelligence service, which is an organization directly under the president, knew every detail about the murder committed by Yoon Tae-shik, the Office of the Presidential Secretary and the Presidential Security Service knew nothing. Therefore, a murderer casually visited the Blue House and even shook hands with President Kim Dae-jung. Lee Jong-chan, a former director of the intelligence service, said he visited Mr. Yoon's technology firm because he had no clue who Mr. Yoon was. The intelligence service had deceived its superior.

The Prosecutors Office made much ado about the arrest of Kim Jae-hwan, a key witness in the Chin Seung-hyun financial scandal who had fled to the United States before the prosecutors placed a 10 million won ($7,700) reward on him and began an extensive search.

This nation's best investigative organization failed to notice that such an important witness had departed the country. Is such a country considered to be normal when the Prosecutors Office cannot get the minimum cooperation from immigration control?

Even worse, this is a country where a president's instructions are ignored. President Kim ordered the government to exclude regional connections and school connections when selecting personnel for public office last year. Instead, the president told officials to construct a standard based on the competence, integrity and innovation of an individual.

However, the very next day local newspapers published an article saying that Cho Se-hyung, the senior adviser of the Millennium Democratic Party, had been unofficially designated ambassador to Japan. What must have passed through the minds of President Kim and Mr. Cho as they read that article? A few days later, domestic newspapers reported two additional cases of biased appointments of officials at government agencies, both due to school and regional connections. It is not clear if the government ignored President Kim's instruction or if he forgot to follow up on what he had said.

Corruption by high-ranking government officials is possible in any country. A country is considered normal when it has countermeasures and skills to battle corruption. To disclose the truths of corruption, to penalize offenders and question the political, administrative and moral responsibilities of those involved are the least courtermeasure courses that a normal country should take.

Unfortunately, our country is not taking such measures. Instead, government authorities that are held accountable for preventing corruption are under suspicion. A government organization like the National Intelligence Service has concealed and sheltered several criminal cases. It would be rare to find a government so unconsciously clueless as ours. Two former deputy directors at the National Intelligence Service are allegedly involved in criminal cases and none of their former bosses has publicly apologized.

A lot of people had high hopes for the president's New Year's news conference, but the conference turned out to be a disappointment. Our country is in a state of crisis, for the organizations directly under the president are thought to be engaged in corruption. It is obvious that despair and anger, which people feel, should have been expressed during the conference. Moreover, there should have been a sense of passion and determination to straighten out the situation. Unfortunately, the conference failed to express either.

I doubt the ability of the present government to overcome such a critical situation, especially since the president did not show a distinctive determination when so many people emphasize that an overall reform of personnel should take place. Our country cannot continue the present situation. Every measure and effort should be counted for the recovery of South Korea as a normally functioning country. Faith in our government isn't enough. It is imperative we mend the loss of credibility by installing dependable officials.


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The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Song Chin-hyok

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