[Outlook]Inspection mayhemStock prices plummet and the foreign exchange rate soars. The people are worried, wondering whether another financial crisis is looming. Korea is not alone. The situation is even more serious in the United States, and Europe is also shaking.
Amid concerns about the economy, inspections into the administration are ongoing. The inspections are a tool used by the parliament to keep the administration in check. The National Assembly, on behalf of the people, looks into whether the administration is using funds in accordance with regulations and the annual budget.
The National Assembly’s inspection should be carried out fairly so that government agencies that handle state funds, which are taxpayers’ money, will be careful not to waste them. Auditing 500 agencies in 20 days is an unrealistic plan. Lawmakers shouldn’t waste time. They should question involved people, listen to their explanations and make them regret their wrongs, if they made any mistakes.
But judging from what is going on now, it looks like Korea’s National Assemblymen are from another planet. Their only interests are to harm their rival political party’s reputation and to make their names known to the public. They are seemingly uninterested in whether the country is on the right track or not. The National Assembly’s inspection is totally disorganized.
In the committee to inspect administration and security, lawmakers argued for half a day about the expression “having an affair,” which a Democrat used earlier in a figurative speech. They didn’t have time to hear what witnesses had to say on that day. If they were unhappy about hearing “having an affair,” all they needed were simple words of regret. But for these lawmakers from another planet, the word game was more serious than the inspection.
The committee for culture, sports, tourism, broadcasting and communications - what a long name - inspected the Korea Communications Commission. During the inspection, they had another battle over live broadcasting by Internet newspaper portals and riot policemen were dispatched to front of the building. As for Internet news portals’ live broadcasting, they can say it is not allowed and that will be it. There is nothing to argue about. But it was more important to the opposition party than the inspection. The opposition party members are more interested in political gain.
At the committee of financial inspection, the minister of strategy and finance wanted to attend an emergency meeting about the foreign exchange rate during lunch time. But a Democrat stopped him for no apparent reason. He simply said the minister should not leave.
For lawmakers, the inspection is a good opportunity to make their faces known to the public, so they try to draw attention to themselves. Otherwise, they don’t show up on TV or in newspapers.
There are many ways to attract attention. They can require 2,000 documents for an inspection, yell at witnesses or disturb the inspection. It is acceptable to be criticized. It is better to be portrayed negatively than not at all.
Reporters in the National Assembly have an inside joke. If a lot of reporters turn up to a meeting and show interest, the meeting goes on forever. But as soon as the reporters leave, the meeting wraps up immediately. Newspaper staff even say they should ignore lawmakers who do bizarre things to get attention and use the media. They do ever-more irregular things because the media reports them. That’s why I’m not mentioning specific politicians’ names.
But now there are so many media outlets that the coverage freeze doesn’t work. This is a good environment for lawmakers whose primary interest is personal gain.
In the current inspection into the administration, the tail is wagging the dog. Important matters have disappeared and only outer shells are left. While witnesses are present, lawmakers from the ruling and opposition parties swear at one another. One side says it will judge the past decade and the other says it will judge the incumbent administration. Some even say the inspection is useless. That is right. If things persist, it is better to forgo the inspection altogether.
Stock prices nose-dive and funds have lost half the value. Housing prices plummet and interest rates go up. The foreign exchange rate soared so those who need to send money abroad to their families are having a hard time. The people are suffering from all kinds of difficulties, but lawmakers don’t care and simply make the people angrier. We would be better off without these types of lawmakers.
I won’t even dare ask lawmakers to forget about their personal interests during the inspection. I would like to request that they only reduce their personal interests by half.
*The writer is the editor of the special reporting team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Sohn Jang-hwan