[EDITORIALS]Touted hearings were a bust

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[EDITORIALS]Touted hearings were a bust

The National Assembly hearings on illegal presidential election funds called by the Legislation and Judiciary Committee were the epitome of disorganization, thanks to the opposition’s lack of preparation and the ruling party’s filibustering. In the run-up to the April elections, politicians used the hearings as a political battle ground, tainting their own dignity in the process.
The hearings were hardly justified, as they were about a case still under the prosecution’s investigation. They were called because the Millennium Democrats were eager to reveal new evidence on the Roh Moo-hyun camp’s alleged illegal election funds and wrongdoings of his aides. The Grand Nationals wanted the hearings to show the unfairness of the prosecution’s investigation. How could they be accused of taking more than 50 billion won ($43 million) when Roh’s camp hasn’t been accused of taking any illegal funds?
After three days of hearings, however, this is what was revealed: “I saw Moon Byeong-uk, chairman of Sun & Moon, hand over two bundles of cash to Roh Moo-hyun,” and “I asked Ahn Hee-jung to exercise influence to reduce my tax burden.”
The two opposition parties are the most responsible for the poor results. They failed to thoroughly prepare, and they failed to prove partiality in the investigation. We wonder why they insisted on calling the prosecutor general to testify, risking unwanted controversy.
The attitude of the ruling camp, including Our Open Party, also deserves criticism. Mr. Roh’s aides and Blue House officials did not show up to testify. Neither did those who did not attend the Assembly’s inspection of the government work last year. They exploited the loophole that leaves the Assembly powerless to punish absentees. It amounts to ignoring the authority of the legislature. Moreover, some 20 members of Our Open Party swarmed to where the hearings were held, obstructing their progress.
Parliamentary hearings can be useful in keeping power in check if they are used properly, which means preparation is necessary. If politicians indulge in spouting groundless suspicions, hearings become useless. To make them effective, we must consider adopting the punishment of witnesses who fail to appear.
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