[EDITORIALS]Panel oversteps proprietyThe confrontation between the Blue House and the National Human Rights Commission is getting uglier. The Blue House last week issued a public warning that the chairman of the commission, Kim Chang-kuk, has left on an unauthorized overseas trip. Mr. Kim attended the Asia-Pacific Forum for Human Rights held in New Delhi, but the commission failed to follow the procedure, which regulates overseas trips of public servants. Public servants' overseas travel must be reported to the president via the foreign minister for approval. The commission answered the Blue House warning through a press meeting: "The commission is an independent agency, which is immune from the regulations on government organs."
For a cabinet level official to go on an official overseas trip without permission from the president flies in the face of common sense. The travel regulation aside, consultation and cooperation among government branches on issues to be discussed at international conferences are necessary for the promotion of inter-governmental cooperation. The commission should exert efforts to remain independent. But insisting that the unauthorized trip was a question of its independence is far-fetched.
The Blue House lost face. The government which boasts of its human rights records has taken a hit from the human rights commission. The administration should be careful lest it be criticized for punishing the commission for insolence toward the president.
There were controversies within the government on the commission's investigation into the death of a suspect in the prosecutors office and imposition of fines on members of the U.S. military stationed in Korea. Some on the commission wonder if the warning has to do with a Blue House plan to apply the brake to the panel's independent actions.
The Blue House and the commission should end the confrontation. And the commission's status in the government, its organization and relations with the Government Administration and Home Affairs Ministry should be clearly defined.