[EDITORIALS]A questionable investigation

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[EDITORIALS]A questionable investigation

The Blue House has announced that it will investigate the past of Vice Defense Minister Yoo Hyo-il. This is practically an admission that the Blue House’s personnel management and screening system has a significant problem. The explanation given is hard to understand. The Blue House said it was unaware that Mr. Yoo had been a battalion commander at the time of the 1980 pro-democracy civil uprising in Gwangju, in which many civilians were slain. But Mr. Yoo was investigated in connection with that, and the pertinent records are kept by the National Assembly’s ad hoc committee on the subject. It was only the Blue House, which is in charge of screening the backgrounds of high-ranking officials, that didn’t know anything at all about this matter.
The Blue House’s timing in raising the issue is strange. As some news media have pointed out, Mr. Yoo’s assignment at Gwangju was reported when he was appointed to the post. Now the government suddenly says it will reinvestigate because civic groups say it is necessary. Given such a weak excuse, some people are wondering whether the Blue House’s motive may be that it wants to get rid of Mr. Yoo, who is said to have opposed the arrests of Army officers allegedly involved in irregularities in promotions last year.
It is questionable whether Mr. Yoo’s past needs to be investigated now. According to records from prosecutors and from a National Assembly hearing, the unit he commanded didn’t take part in any actions that led to deaths, nor did it engage in any cruelty against civilians involved in the uprising. His past was also investigated during the Kim Dae-jung administration, which appointed him to some important posts. What one has to consider is that he was a soldier at the time, and was required to follow orders. Appointing a certain person to a certain post may or may not be appropriate, depending on the president’s philosophy. But announcing an investigation of the past of a vice defense minister who has been in his job for more than six months is rash and inapproriate.
The Blue House needs to determine who is responsible for this fiasco. The Roh administration established a senior presidential secretary for evaluating candidates for promotion from a variety of angles. Someone has to accept responsibility for not providing the most basic information about Mr. Yoo, and the Blue House’s current promotion system needs to be reevaluated.
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