Woo must respect the law

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Woo must respect the law

The National Assembly’s House Steering Committee for the first time in parliamentary audit history may file charges against a witness from the presidential office for disobeying an order to appear for hearing. Chung Jin-suk, the floor leader for the ruling Saenuri Party and head of the steering committee, warned the legislature will bring contempt charges against Woo Byung-woo, senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, with the prosecution this week. A witness disobeying a request for attendance without just cause faces up to three years in jail or a maximum fine of 10 million won ($8,764).

Woo, indulgent with confidence, has outright disregarded the legislature and people. Through such a show of arrogance, he has in fact undermined President Park Geun-hye’s authority. Park has been disgraced by a series of alleged misconduct and corruption charges by her aides and acquaintances. The presidential house and legislature are waging a showdown over Woo. Who can the people rely on to navigate the country, already saddled as it is with multiple scourges?

The partisan wrangling over Woo has been one-sided. The ruling Saenuri Party has kept to the sidelines over the controversy because of the president’s unwavering faith in him. The opposition refused to accept various excuses from the presidential office — that Woo could not leave the office while the chief of staff was present at the legislature and that Woo must cooperate with the prosecution probe over a number of allegations with the president’s acquaintance. There were precedents in the Roh Moo-hyun administration, when the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs stood at the legislative witness stand for questioning along with the chief of staff.

Woo’s predecessor, Kim Young-han, stepped down in January 2015 in defiance of the order to comply with legislative questioning and avoid breaking the law. The logic of Woo’s non-compliance cannot stand as Ahn Chong-bum, senior secretary for policy coordination, complied with parliamentary questioning even though he has been implicated in the power abuses of Choi Soon-sil, a longtime friend of the president.

The House Steering Committee repeatedly demanded Woo’s presence, but he refused every time. Woo has utterly offended the legislature, which represents the people. We can only suspect his audacity to disregard the legislature and violate the law is possible because he believes the president is watching his back. The National Assembly must hunt Woo down and make him pay for his contempt of the people and their representatives. The president, in a ceremony for the police, emphasized restoring law and order, but she should first teach her own aides to respect law and order.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 22, Page 30
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