No sense of responsibilityThe two-day legislative hearing to question the government about its handling of shipping and shipbuilding restructuring ended without conclusion. Nothing new has come out, certainly no new ideas that could increase the efficiency of the corporate or industrial restructuring process. Key witnesses were absent and those present all had answers ready. They were either unaware of the affair or claimed the issue was beyond their responsibility. Instead of delving into the causes and accountability for the mess the shipping and shipbuilding industries are in, the hearing merely provided a podium for concerned parties to explain themselves and talk their way out of any responsibility.
This isn’t surprising. Of the people who attended West Wing meetings in October 2015 to arrange a rescue fund of 4.2 trillion won ($3.8 billion) for Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (DSME), then-deputy prime minister for economy Choi Kyung-hwan and then-presidential secretary for economic affairs Ahn Chong-bum were excluded from the witness list due to opposition from the ruling party.
Hong Ky-tack, former president of the state-run Korea Development Bank, did not attend without presenting an excuse. The hearing hardly could have found out anything without the people who knew the answers to why and how the rescue fund was arranged.
The government was equally uncooperative and did not hand in its findings on the DSME accounting scam and investigation report by the Board of Audit and Inspection. It ignored a demand by the hearing committee head asking about the whereabouts of Hong. That raises questions of whether the government is serious about restructuring and whether it wants to learn from mistakes. The opposition members who agreed to drop Choi and Ahn from the witness list in return for a hearing on a farmer injured by riot police during a rally put little effort into the hearing.
The event only increased skepticism about the government’s will and principles on restructuring. Financial Services Commission chief Yim Jong-yong said the government helped DSME to protect the state bank from losses. Yet Yim stressed “principles” when deciding to send Hanjin Shipping into court receivership.
Policymakers will likely shy away from responsibilities toward the end of the term of the president. In the meantime, the public is getting more anxious and losing confidence in the economy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Sept. 10, Page 26