[EDITORIALS]Reverting to a bad practiceThe incoming government of President-elect Roh Moo-hyun plans to revive a special investigation unit supervised directly by the Blue House. The move comes two years after President Kim Dae-jung disbanded the controversial sajikdong team, a special police unit, after he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.
Mr. Roh's aides say that the planned restoration of the police unit is based on the new administration's will to eradicate irregularities and corruption involving presidents' family members and relatives as well as ranking government officials. Unlike in the past, they say, the new investigation unit will not operate in secret. They say the team will consist of prosecutors, police detectives and tax investigators, who will work openly.
While they may have good intentions, the re-establishment of the unit will generate side effects of various types. The existence of a Blue House investigation team will turn into a symbol of an imperial presidency and unchecked power, as it did in the past.
When the team was dissolved in 2000, the then senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, who headed the unit, said, "It is like abandoning the baton of directing power." The likening of the investigation team to a baton indicates that the unit could be a source of presidential power above the law. Although the sajikdong team might have helped maintain discipline among government bureaucrats, it had always been accused of abusing its powers by targeting opposition politicians, digging for the weak spots of the president's political enemies and concealing or manipulating cases under investigation. President-elect Roh's aides vowed to run an inspection team that is totally different from the sajikdong unit.
Although his aides say that the team's role will be limited to internal investigations and intelligence-collecting, it is not clear at which point the internal probes would end. It is likely that the Blue House team will reign over other investigatory agencies.
As for preventing irregularities by family members of the president, influence-peddling by President Kim's sons should not be blamed on the disbandment of the team but on state prosecutors' failure to stop it. The key to preventing irregularities by the president's family and influential government figures is the president's will to do so. Mr. Roh should let public prosecutors do the job that they have been appointed to do.