Reform the ‘black money’ system

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Reform the ‘black money’ system

The main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) is demanding National Assembly authority in tougher scrutiny over extraordinary activity spending by government organizations. Spending for “extraordinary” or classified activities does not require receipts, and this so-called black budget has been increasing annually.

This year, it reached 880 billion won ($743 million). More than half, 478.2 billion won, went to the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and the rest to the Ministry of National Defense, the National Police Office, the Ministry of Justice, the Presidential Secretariat, the National Security Council, the Presidential Security Office, the Coast Guard and the National Assembly.

The opposition declined to confirm the appointment of Lee Ki-taek, the Supreme Court justice nominee, demanding the creation of a subcommittee under the budget committee to look into spending. The issue could become controversial once the National Assembly session starts today.

State activities include covert classified activities, which cover moves by the NIS to collect intelligence for investigation as well as for the Defense Ministry and law enforcement offices. But the problem is that there are public officials who misuse this spending for personal reasons. South Gyeongsang Gov. Hong Joon-pyo, the National Assembly steering committee head, and NPAD Rep. Shin Geh-ryoon, a member of the environment and labor committee, used some of the budget for personal allowances. Using these funds for personal purposes is tantamount to embezzlement.

Lee Dong-heub, the nominee for chief justice, also came under criticism during his confirmation hearing for keeping the budget he received during his time serving as a court justice in his personal account. He bowed out, in part, for this reason.

The opposition party’s decision to defer the confirmation of a justice nominee by connecting it to the extraordinary budget is wrong. The move is also thought to be in retaliation for the Supreme Court’s decision to hand down a guilty verdict to Han Myeong-sook, one of the party’s most high-profile members. But it’s undeniable that the special budget is being abused in many ways under the veil of a “confidentiality code.” The legislature should address the issue via legitimate means. It must hold a public hearing and announce a reasonable solution. We cannot afford to have our national budget spent by a few as an extraordinary allowance.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 31, Page 30

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