Legislators amokThe JoongAng Sunday reported, with documents obtained through the information disclosure law, the countries visited more than three times during the last four years by the 17th National Assembly standing committees. They are the United States, Russia, Kenya, Peru, South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, Greece, the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Brazil and Sweden. Among them, the ones in high demand for activities abroad were Russia and the United States.
The rationale for the trips, funded entirely by the National Assembly, was learning about other nations’ environmental and labor policies and their traffic systems.
Why are such policy-oriented trips concentrated in countries such as Peru, which has the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu? Or Kenya, where safaris are popular; South Africa, with the Cape of Good Hope and precious stones; and Egypt and Brazil, home of pyramids and Iguazu Falls?
The 17th Assembly visited Central and South America frequently on the pretext of cheering up Korean emigrants, but why then did they shy away from visiting Korean troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan?
If legislators went on trips abroad with specific policy themes, such as observing regulations about street billboards, who would criticize them for wasting tax money? If they were to engage in some tourism and visit some resorts between policy-related trips, we wouldn’t criticize them, either.
The problem is that the main menu is going to tourist resorts and the official activities are merely put forth to justify their trips as legitimate.
The other problem is that no agency exists to inspect the legislators’ ethical breaches. The Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Assembly watches over ethical breaches committed by the government, but who watches after the legislators?
For example, who inspects and checks the 12-day trips to South America made by the National Assembly’s Construction and Traffic Committee, during which six legislators spent 17 million won ($17,000) in May 2005?
The legislators know very well themselves that the National Assembly is no longer a sacred ground with special privileges.
The costs and schedules for the trips made by legislators should be uploaded on their homepages in real time or submitted as standing committee or plenary session documents. There should be a systematic change. Only transparency can get rid of the many dirty germs.