[Viewpoint] Rep. Kang Yong-seok’s sorry behaviorTwo news items were conspicuous on Thursday morning. The first was that the state-run Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology has decided to launch a special inspection into Ahn Lab at the request of independent Representative Kang Yong-seok. The second was that Kang’s appeal in his sexual harassment case was rejected, and the court ruled that his original sentence of six months in prison, to be suspended with a year of probation, should stand.
Kang used to be a Grand National Party lawmaker until he made sexually inappropriate remarks to a female university student who aspired to be a broadcast anchor at a dinner with students last year. The JoongAng Ilbo reported the story exclusively. Kang, in response, filed a defamation suit against the reporter, claiming that he had not made the remark. In the initial trial, Kang was convicted of both insulting the aspiring anchorwomen and bringing false charges against the reporter. The ruling was upheld in the appeal, and there is no possibility that the convictions will be reversed by the Supreme Court.
After the Supreme Court finalizes the ruling, Kang will lose his National Assembly seat, and his law license will be suspended for three years. It will be hard for him to get a grip because the fall from his successful life will be abrupt.
The GNP already saved him once in August. At the time, the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Ethics made an unprecedented recommendation to expel him from the legislature and sent the proposal to the floor. The Grand Nationals, however, voted it down.
For Kang, it would be necessary to pay back the help, but it would be desperate to ask for more help. If the Supreme Court appeal can be delayed until next April, he can actually keep his seat until the end of his term. What’s more important is receiving a pardon. Only after the government grants amnesty can he work as a lawyer and resume political activities. Even if he isn’t able to run in the next election, he probably wants to find a job at a state-run institute, which is often provided to a former ruling party lawmaker.
Kang is faced with a predicament, and during the Seoul mayoral by-election, he persistently attacked Park Won-soon’s past. Then, rumors spread that Ahn Lab would become the next target of the ruling party’s offensive. Rumors said that almost all state-run institutes and companies that have relationships with Ahn Lab were requested to provide information. It was unbelievable.
Amid such rumors, the National Assembly’s Knowledge Economy Committee decided to cut funding for Ahn Lab. On Nov. 8, Kang demanded that 1.4 billion won ($1.2 million) that had been allocated for Ahn Lab as part of the World Best Software project be cut, and the proposal was approved. Opposition lawmakers protested and opened another meeting. Then, Kang fiercely complained, “Since when was the Democratic Party controlled by Ahn Cheol-soo?”
The committee made an ambiguous compromise by cutting 1.4 billion won from the entire project’s budget, instead of specifically targeting the funding for Ahn Lab. Then, news followed that the Korea Evaluation Institute of Industrial Technology would have a special inspection of Ahn Lab. The institute already conducted a mid-term evaluation for Ahn Lab in September and gave it permission to continue the World Best Software project.
The incidents are all hard to understand. The World Best Software project is the government’s ambitious program to become a software powerhouse. The consortium that includes Ahn Lab is in charge of developing mobile security software, a key project that will decide the future of the IT industry. Ahn Lab is recognized by the industry as the best candidate to carry out the project. It is Korea’s best security program developer that blocked DDoS attacks. It is foolish to hinder the advancement of Ahn Lab in the era of global cyberwarfare, particularly for a political reason.
The people who know Ahn say that he is more of a researcher than a politician. Many say he is still “contemplating” about running in the next presidential election rather than “making a calculated move for the presidential bid.”
Personally, I believe Ahn can contribute more to society in a research lab or in a lecture hall, rather than in the political arena. Kang’s actions are an unpleasant incentive for Ahn to get into politics. As a result of his actions, Ahn and his supporters are forced to support the opposition party.
At this particular point, there is no better anti-GNP campaign than Kang’s behavior. The GNP must rethink how long it will allow Kang’s loyalty to the party to continue. No matter how hated - or feared - Ahn is, it should never be allowed in politics to taint Ahn Lab. The ruling party must make a decision for the sake of national interest. It must not force scientists to jump into politics. Science is often more important than politics.
*The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Oh Byung-sang