‘You don’t need to know’

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‘You don’t need to know’


This year, I have noticed a series of incidents where the answer to questions seems to be “citizens don’t need to know.” The first was the relocation of the family of President Moon Jae-in’s daughter Da-hye to another country. The Blue House refused to explain why the family moved abroad. The Blue House spokesman, Kim Eui-kyeom, said the demand to disclose the private lives of a president’s family could not be met, even if it involved security and the budget. The refusal to disclose sounded like “You don’t need to know.”

It may be contagious. When asked by a reporter about the defense cost-sharing a few days later, Rep. Lee Soo-hyuck, ruling party chair of the National Assembly committee on foreign policy and unification, retorted, “Why do you need to know?” Chair of the National Assembly special committee on political reform Sim Sang-jung of the Justice Party acted similarly. When reporters asked her how the flexible proportional representation was calculated, she said people didn’t need to know the formula. After controversy grew, Shim said she meant to say the formula would be made public when it was finalized.

Not only politicians, but the government also resorts to such attitudes. Last week’s apartment prices posted by the Ministry of Land and Transportation were confusing. In some cases, a smaller unit on the same floor in the same building was more expensive. When some asked how the ministry determined its posted prices, the ministry said specific pricing and calculation could not be made public. In other words, the ministry said that it does not disclose how the standards for imposing taxes were calculated.

There has to be something fishy behind “you don’t need to know.” In 2007, the government partially disclosed its special pardon list. But an undisclosed list included late Kyungnam Enterprise chairman Sung Wan-jong. He was pardoned in 2005, was imprisoned for another case and pardoned again after two years. When it was revealed, the undisclosed pardon list became controversial. I wonder what circumstances lay behind the series of “you don’t need to knows.”

The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 20, Page 30
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