[EDITORIALS]Perceptions, at least, of biasThere are former convicts imprisoned on charges of espionage against South Korea and participation in anti-state organizations among the civilian investigators of the Presidential Truth Commission on Suspicious Deaths. The fact that such dubious people work there only deepens the suspicion about the commission that created a public stir by classifying a North Korean spy who died in prison while resisting conversion from communism and a former North Korean partisan fighter as contributors to the democratization of South Korea.
The commission explained that the investigators had been pardoned and reinstated after completing their prison terms, and that they were employed there through open competition procedures. Therefore, the committee said, it believes that there is nothing wrong in their employment as investigators.
Of course, in principle, the opportunity to be civil servants should not be limited because of wrongdoings in the past. And people who were pardoned should not be banned from taking public posts because of their past activities. That amounts to depriving a person of the freedom to choose his job. Even if a person was a North Korean spy, if he or she has served a prison term and converted from communism, he should be allowed to work in whatever field he wants. And his right to choose an occupation should be guaranteed.
But it is not appropriate that a person who violated the National Security Law works as an investigator at the commission. The commission is a presidential agency that investigates suspicious deaths that occurred at the National Intelligence Service, military units, police stations and correctional institutions under the authoritarian regimes of the past. As the investigations involve finding the truth that was not disclosed at the time by the security agencies like the National Intelligence Service and the army, investigators are required to have highly professional expertise. And they should not be biased ideologically and should stay neutral. But the investigators in question, who had denied South Korea even though for a short time, can’t be free from their past. However fairly they investigate, it is difficult to guarantee the objectivity and fairness of their work; their credibility will also be questioned.
Anyone who wants to be employed as a civil servant has to go through a procedure of inquiring into his loyalty to the nation, sincerity and credibility. The government must check whether the procedures were followed before these persons were hired. And it must examine whether the investigators in question made biased judgements as a part of their work.