[Viewpoint] Transparency: It’s not complicated

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[Viewpoint] Transparency: It’s not complicated

If you run your own business you can move your money from one pocket to another as you see fit and nobody will blame you for doing so. But if your company is a stock company, even you must strictly separate the company’s money from your own. If the company is listed on the stock market, financial sheets must be even more transparent because the company is even more public then.

Transparency is often talked about, but what needs to be most transparent is the public sector. The incumbent administration, however, has many aspects that are hard to understand using common sense. That proves that the administration is not transparent.

The Grand National Party was crushed in the recent by-elections. Even though the election was small, it is still hard to understand why the party was defeated even in Gyeongju, the “hometown” of the administration. There are excuses: one could say the polls were not accurate or the party misunderstood public sentiment.

But the reason is simple. The party nominated the wrong candidate. The party did not choose the one who could win for sure and instead gave the party nomination to someone else. Why did the party select someone who would almost certainly lose? There lies the problems of the GNP. A political party’s ultimate goal is to win elections. A party must nominate the right people for that purpose as candidates in a transparent way. But individual interests and emotions were entangled in the process and the GNP’s party nomination was distorted. It is complicated to explain, but in short, the nomination was not done in a transparent manner. The party caters to its elite members more and more, rather than minding the public good.

It’s perplexing to see the prosecutors and the National Tax Service fight over the investigation of former President Roh Moo-hyun. The prosecutors claim that the NTS audited Park Yeon-cha’s taxes and reported the inspection to the president, but hid some of the illegal affairs, instead of reporting it all to the prosecutors.

According to the prosecutors, the NTS separated Park the individual from his company and reported on the individual only. The NTS has another story. It says it reported on both Park the individual and his company to the prosecutors and never changed or hid any part of the audit.

Both the prosecutors’ office and the NTS are state agencies. Which one is telling the truth? Why are things not open and clear? If there is a crime it must be reported as it is. If the tax office reported only part of the irregularities, there must have been something that it wanted to hide.

The prosecutors are not transparent, either. While the investigation into the Park Yeon-cha scandal was going on, a rumor went around that some prosecutors had been bribed as well. The most righteous and transparent way would be to investigate insiders at the prosecutors’ office who were involved in the scandal. If the ruling party is involved, the members of that party must be looked into, also. Only after that should prosecutors turn to former President Roh.

This is the only way transparency can be maintained in this massive investigation. The prosecutors must handle the case in accordance with the law and nothing else. Why wait to gauge public opinion about whether Roh should be detained or not? Why insist that prosecutors not be divided against each other? If there is something wrong with the NTS, the prosecutors can raid their office and investigate. Who can do that to the prosecutors themselves?

If things are transparent, that means they are easy to understand no matter who may look into them. When things are not transparent, excuses are made and explanations become complicated.

The reason for all the trouble is simple: the incumbent administration has not yet given up the dark side of power.

The point of a single-term presidency is to keep the president from worrying about re-election or who will succeed him. He is supposed to play the role of a fair referee, that’s all. If he is not involved in corruption he should not care whom the prosecutors arrest. Things must be handled in accordance with the law, nothing more. Why should something as simple as this be so difficult?

In our country, a retired president can enjoy a decent life with a pension and other expenses provided by the state. Regardless, if the former president received illicit funds he must apologize. One wonders why he has so much to say, putting the entire country in turmoil.

If something is not transparent when the president is in office it always leads to trouble after he retires. The incumbent administration must not forget this.

*The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Moon Chang-keuk
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