Resource diplomacy probe to include past liberal governments

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Resource diplomacy probe to include past liberal governments

The ruling and main opposition parties have agreed on the terms of a special parliamentary investigation into the costly overseas resource investments pushed by the former Lee Myung-bak government, but fell short of finalizing the list of officials they plan to question during the 100-day probe.

Following a meeting on Thursday at the National Assembly, the chief negotiators from the ruling Saenuri Party and the New Politics Alliance for Democracy agreed that they will expand the scope of the investigation to cover the two liberal governments preceding the Lee administration. The two lawmakers are tasked with determining the details of the ongoing investigation.

The agreement for an expanded probe came after the NPAD yielded to the Saenuri’s demand that the investigation also look into efforts made by the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun governments to secure natural resources overseas. The main opposition party originally rejected the request, citing a lack of time and resources necessary to go after three administrations, but relented on Thursday.

It also initially claimed the Lee administration bore the brunt of responsibility for costly energy projects that went awry - ventures the party claims resulted in the loss of more than 35 trillion won ($31.8 billion) in taxpayer money.

“There should be no restraint in the scope of the investigation, and it will not be confined to one particular government,” the two chief negotiators, Saenuri Rep. Kweon Seong-dong and NPAD Rep. Hong Young-pyo, said in a joint statement after their meeting.

The two also agreed that the investigation would last through April 7, and could be extended for 25 days. Lawmakers may summon officials from state-run companies that were on the forefront of previous government’s “resource diplomacy” to detail their projects.

Questioning by lawmakers will take place over two separate four-day periods next month.

But while the two sides agreed on the schedule for the special probe, they continued to be at odds over which key officials from the Lee administration would be called to testify. The NPAD particularly wants to question former President Lee in what would likely be a hearing headed by opposition lawmakers, as well as his elder brother Lee Sang-deuk, a former five-term lawmaker.

“A former president should be called to testify only when there are reasonable grounds to believe that he violated the law,” said Rep. Kwon, “not over a [bungled] policy.”

Having failed to determine a definite witness list, the two parties said they would continue negotiations in the course of the investigation, which kicked off Dec. 29.

While the NPAD is expected to continue pressing the Saenuri to accept its demand to have the two Lees testify, it is less than likely that the opposition will actually see the former president on the witness stand given the backlash expected from Saenuri lawmakers, many of whom once served in Lee’s administration.

No former president has ever been questioned by lawmakers in a legislative investigation.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [jkkang2@joongang.co.kr]


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