More power abuse cases under Roh, says GNP rep

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More power abuse cases under Roh, says GNP rep

A ruling party lawmaker said Sunday a recent illegal surveillance and abuse of power scandal in the Prime Minister’s Office weren’t unique to the Lee Myung-bak government, and similar illegal practices were even more common during the Roh Moo-hyun administration.

The Lee administration was damaged by allegations in July that a team in the Prime Minister’s Office that investigates ethics violations by public servants had conducted an illegal surveillance of a pro-opposition businessman who uploaded a video clip critical of Lee on his Web site in 2008.

Lee In-kyu, a senior member of the public ethics team, and two subordinates were indicted in August.

GNP Representative Lee Jin-bok, who belongs to the National Assembly’s State Affairs Committee, said the public ethics office conducted surveillance on car records of public servants and civilians 1,645 times during the Roh Moo-hyun administration, and 707 times under the current government.

A document released yesterday by Lee, who requested it from the National Archives of Korea, showed the public ethics office requested the National Police Agency to install a device in one of its branch offices in March 2004 through which it could monitor all car registration records.

Lee noted that the ethics office didn’t seek permission for installing the device from the Ministry of Construction and Transportation (now the Ministry of Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs), which controlled the records of cars at that time, and that the National Police Agency didn’t notify the ministry, although it was required to do so.

“The ethics office is not allowed to trace car records of civilians, but the office still hasn’t yet returned the device,” Lee said on Sunday. “This is a great abuse of power.”

As a clamor grew among the GNP and opposition parties for the Prime Minister’s Office to ax its public ethics team, Lim Chae-jin, chief of staff at the Prime Minister’s Office, said yesterday during a yearly parliamentary audit on government offices, “The Prime Minister’s Office will soon come up with measures to revamp its public ethics office.”

“I feel regretful and sorry for what happened so far,” Lim said, “But it’s more important to deal with this matter and make improvements.”

Kwon Tae-shin, former chief of staff at the Prime Minister’s Office who appeared at the audit as a witness, said the office must apologize if it conducted illegal surveillance on civilians.

The audit on 516 government offices will continue through Oct. 23.

By Lee Ka-young, Kim Mi-ju []
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