Revival of authoritarianismThe Prime Minister’s Office is in hot water for allegedly wielding disproportionate and unwarranted investigative power. Its public office ethics support staff has even been referred to as “undercover FBI investigators” and “the Grim Reaper” by government employees.
The staff’s inspection radar knows no boundaries regarding either rank or post. Ministers and vice ministers, as well as prosecutors and tax agency officials, tremble at their arrival. Their expansive power has now seeped into the lives of ordinary citizens too, leading to harassment of average Koreans as well as physical and psychological threats. We have been astonished to learn such extortion and abuses of power exist in today’s government.
Surveillance of civilians is a shameful reminder of the authoritative governments of the past. After one man recently uploaded a video clip railing against President Lee Myung-bak’s policies on medical reform and the four rivers restoration project, the ethics office of the Prime Minister’s Office illegally seized the financial papers of the company he was running and requested a police investigation.
Then officials from the Prime Minister’s Office went to the company’s main creditor bank and pressured it to put a hold on business transactions. Unable to endure the stress, the man gave up his position as chief executive along with his stake in the company in order to save it. All this was the result of merely citing comments that are rampant on the Internet. The tale seems too horrendous to be true.
History has shown that unrestrained power is bound to corrupt. We witnessed the rampant abuse of power by intelligence authorities and investigators in the past, and the greater the power the state wields today, the more administrative discretion authorities must exercise. Government offices that run on taxpayers’ money exist solely to serve the people and provide the best public service. It is despicable that they have overlooked their primary role and abused their authority to control and dominate ordinary people.
No wonder the Prime Minister Office’s ethics section is ridiculed as the personal police of the presidential office. Their actions can only spark and further distrust of the government. On top of the report of physical abuse in police interrogations, the prime minister’s investigation of a civilian has raised criticisms that the government resembles past military governments. The government should thoroughly look into the affair, but the Prime Minister’s Office must first of all clarify the facts. If the people in question have been found guilty of abusing their power, they must be sternly disciplined. Otherwise, the government will not be able to regain public trust.