[EDITORIALS]A new office? Not necessaryThe government plans to establish a new office that will exclusively investigate alleged misdeeds by presidential relatives and high-ranking officials. On Monday, President Roh Moo-hyun ordered a detailed plan to establish this office, which would be under the Korea Independent Commission Against Corruption.
As the details are yet to be disclosed, we do not know what the new department would be like. Some speculate that it will exercise investigation rights in a limited capacity.
In order to create a clean government, strengthening surveillance on senior officials and punishing those who commit illegal acts are appropriate. But it is hard to say that past misdeeds were committed merely because there wasn’t an office specifically in charge of monitoring senior officials and the president’s relatives.
The prosecution has been restoring the people’s confidence through investigations of illegal presidential campaign funds. However, as the government plans to create yet another investigation authority, people will see it as an attempt to undermine prosecutors’ work.
It is also problematic to place the new department under the anti-corruption commission, which receives its direct orders from the president. Investigations of presidential relatives and senior officials require a greater amount of independence from political influence.
If an office that reports directly to the president investigates civil servants, how is it different from the special investigation team that used to report to the Blue House before it was abolished during the Kim Dae-jung administration?
The anti-corruption commission has had questionable judgment in the past, too. It tried to indict three officials, including a former cabinet minister, a few years ago, but the prosecution decided against doing so, and a court declined to rule on the case.
If a new investigative office is established, malicious anonymous letters will pour in. Under such circumstances, civil servants will feel threatened.
Before establishing such a department, the government must consider its relations with existing ones and the efficiency of the operation. The political independence of the prosecution must be protected.