[EDITORIALS]Muzzling the bureaucracy

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[EDITORIALS]Muzzling the bureaucracy

The Blue House has launched an inspection over comments and actions of senior Foreign Ministry officials, taking issue with comments they made about the president and his foreign policy, and is questioning them regarding their talks with journalists. From what we have gathered so far, the Blue House step seems highly unfair.
Do we live in a country where civil servants cannot speak critically of the president? If the public sentiment is any indication, we suspect that there ought to be more than a few bureaucrats critical of the president. Will the Blue House inspect and reprimand them all? They can do that. By muzzling career bureaucrats with expert knowledge in their fields, the Blue House may achieve silence, but it will become difficult to expect these expert bureaucrats to correct wrong policies and urge the administration to take the right course. That sounds like the system in North Korea.
The Blue House inspection has graver consequences if it started out as “How dare a bureaucrat criticize the president.” That would be inviting criticism that the administration, which prides itself as a “participatory” government, is treading deep into a new kind of authoritarianism or a new dictatorship. Surely we are not living in a monarchy?
This incident follows the recent dismissal of an up-and-coming female police officer who repeated rumors concerning the president in a casual setting with her colleagues. The sequence of the two incidents leads us to question if the Roh Moo-hyun Blue House has set out to “put into order” the nation’s bureaucrats.
The controversy over whether the Blue House tapped phone conversations between the reporter and foreign ministry officials is even more serious. The reporter filed an article about the wrangling of the Foreign Ministry and the National Security Council. The Blue House should first clarify if it questioned senior foreign ministry officials about the phone conversation.
They should also disclose how they obtained the contents of the conversation. The public, largely unprotected from eavesdropping and wiretapping by government authorities, has the right to know what transpired. The Blue House owes that to the voters who elected Mr. Roh to end the era of such illegal practices.
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