Farm subsidies

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Farm subsidies

The National Assembly will conduct an investigation of the rice farm subsidy issue on Nov. 10 to 26.

The Board of Audit and Inspection has announced that it will reconstruct a list of public servants who took the subsidies illegally, which it is said to have intentionally deleted last year.

The special Assembly committee conducting the inspection will decide which names on the list will be made public first. These initial names are likely to include leading members of society.

Some 170,000 people are suspected to have received the subsidies, of whom around 46,000 are civil servants or public corporation employees.

The inspection’s primary aim should be to find out the truth. The committee must determine who took the subsidies illegally, how and why.

It must also get to the bottom of why the Board of Audit and Inspection tried to cover up the evidence, whether the former Roh Moo-hyun administration was involved and why the system was not improved after the Board’s probe.

The National Assembly must work hard to prevent the ruling and opposition parties from influencing the outcome of the inspection.

The practice of taking illegal farm subsidies began under the previous administration but it is still happening under the incumbent administration.

Both the ruling and opposition parties bear responsibility for what transpired. They must therefore abandon any intention to take advantage of the inspection for political purposes.

Debates on who to call as witnesses - possibly including former President Roh Moo-hyun - are already taking place. But the most appropriate time to inspect documents related to Roh is during an audit of the former president. This was the case during the inspection looking into military corruption in arms purchases committed during the Kim Young-sam administration.

Hearings are important but with 18 members in the special committee, there is a risk that the inspection will be superficial if the committee is not efficient.

Populist moves must be avoided as well. The issue reveals ethical shortcomings that are widespread in Korean society.

We must determine whether this was the result of flaws in the system. Improving the system is as important as holding those who are responsible accountable.
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