Just do your job, National AssemblyIn its recent editorials, the JoongAng Ilbo criticized the National Assembly’s corporate bashing through its annual parliamentary questioning. We asked what entitles legislators to investigate private companies and how they can manage to question 628 institutions in only 15 business days.
Those worries became a reality. On the second day of questioning, as many as 40 businessmen were summoned. Lim Choong-seng, president of Hansung Investment, returned home after making a single statement: “We are a real estate rental business and have nothing to do with Hansung Motor [a foreign car importer].” The National Assembly had called in the wrong corporate executive.
E-mart Chief Executive Huh Yin-cheol also had to correct lawmakers that he is in charge of a warehouse store chain and there is a separate company - E-mart Everyday - that runs a supermarket chain. The befuddled members of the National Assembly’s Trade, Industry and Energy Committee impromptu called in Chung Yong-jin, vice chairman of Shinsegae Group, the mother group of E-mart.
Domineering tones, lecturing and shouting dominated the annual event. Legislators snapped and cut off witnesses’ answers by demanding a simple yes or no to their accusatory questions. When corporate witnesses tried to explain, they were cut short because “there was no time left.” But the lawmakers didn’t care that their interrogations were actually hurting corporate activities and the image of various companies.
Of course, there were small signs of improvement. The chairman of the National Policy Committee asked committee members to question the corporate witnesses first so that they won’t have to wait around for a long time.
But the National Assembly audit must restore its original function. Even if large companies are at fault for unfair business practices, legislators should focus on government offices and on their performance in oversight and administration. They have no authority to round up businessmen and scold them on the pretext of questioning. Since last year, corporate witnesses chose to refuse summoning and instead paid fines of 10 million won ($9,397) to 15 million won. The legislators are undermining their credibility by abusing the auditing stage. The legislature must restore the authority of the legislative audit. Otherwise, more and more businessmen will choose to snub the legislature and pay fines instead of attending the audit.