Disappointing so farThe first and second hearings at the National Assembly earlier this week over the unprecedented abuse of power scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil disappointed because of a critical lack of substance. The legislature plans to hold another round of hearings next week to dig up some truths behind the ever-evolving scandal. It is fortunate that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle could listen to testimonies by heads of conglomerates, President Park’s former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon, and Choi’s aides, all of whom appeared as witness at the hearings.
Nevertheless, the legislature’s grilling fell short of our expectations due to the absence of key figures such as Choi, senior presidential secretary for policy coordination Ahn Chong-bum, Park’s personal secretary Jeong Ho-seong and senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo.
The substandard way of running the hearing, as seen in legislators’ insulting rhetoric and superficial questions to the witnesses, was hard to accept. Many of the representatives simply reiterated what had been discovered by the press and vociferously attacked the witnesses without solid evidence.
The former chief of staff was forced to backpedal, albeit unwillingly, on his earlier claim that he knew nothing about Choi Soon-sil because of the video footage provided by a netizen who was watching the televised hearing. Thanks to the video clip, the presidential chief of staff had to admit to a connection with Choi. “As I am watching the footage, I can hardly say I have never heard of her name,” he said. Such a disappointing pattern of questioning leads to an argument against such hearings.
The core of the so-called Choi-gate scandal is the fact that an ordinary citizen with no government position played a central role in an elected government thanks to her connection with the president. If our lawmakers — or law enforcement authorities, for that matter — fail to find the truth behind the scandal, it could lead to a critical loss of impetus for the president’s retreat from government. The legislature’s hearings must aim to get closer to the facts, given national attention to the scandal.
Lawmakers must come up with effective ways to enhance the level of their inquiries through thorough preparation and the wise selection of witnesses. If necessary, they must invite outside experts.
At the same time, our lawmakers must respect the integrity of witnesses and others who take the stand. When they do not comply with lawmakers’ summons or commit perjury, they must receive much heavier penalties than before. The people don’t want to see any suspects protecting themselves by exploiting their knowledge of the law, as Park’s former civil affairs secretary Woo has done.
JoongAng Ilbo, Dec. 9, Page 34