Burying evidenceA national investigation into improper distribution of subsidies intended for rice farming seems inevitable. The Grand National Party believes that the inquiry that the opposition party is asking for should take place after the government has investigated and cleared the case. However, there are many areas that will be difficult for the government to examine first.
On June 20, 2007, the Board of Audit reported the results of its audit to President Roh Moo-hyun. Six days later, the Board of Audit decided not to disclose the results, and on August 1, that year an auditor went to the Korea Rural Community and Agriculture Corporation and deleted the audit documents.
According to the National Assembly audit documents, the then Ministry of Agriculture already knew in 2006 that there were lessors of farmland who improperly received farm subsidies to help reduce their income tax.
The government says it plans to investigate about 40,000 individuals, including civil servants and those working in public firms, of the 170,000 who wrongfully received the subsidies. It then plans to recover the subsidy money from them.
But this is only part of the problem.
It is important to recover and introduce a surcharge system to prevent a recurrence of this scandal, but such institutional reform must be based upon an examination into the truth. It must consider whether former President Roh or the Blue House had a part to play in not disclosing the audit results. We must examine whether they tried to bury the results a few months before the presidential election to prevent a disruptive scandal.
If the Blue House was not involved, why did the Board of Audit independently bury the results and delete the file, given that they are not related to national security?
The national investigation needs to look at the whole process of speculation on farmland, faking credentials as a working farmer and state money leaking into strange places in the name of agricultural administration. Did the previous administration stay quiet and not reveal the truth for fear of upsetting the nation? And why the delay in initiating institutional reform?
The Board of Audit falls directly under the president’s authority, which makes Roh responsible for hiding key information. The national investigation should draw proper answers from the people responsible in this disgraceful episode, such as Roh and officials at the Korea Rural Community and Agriculture Corporation.