Shaking the chief auditorThe ruling Democratic Party (DP) has been ratcheting up its attack on Choe Jae-hyeong, head of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI). During a parliamentary questioning session on the BAI on July 23, DP Rep. Song Gab-seok brought up a rumor about a family member of Choe, who Choe acts as a proxy for the reactor industry in which the family member is involved. The lawmaker accused Choe of undermining the legitimacy of the Moon Jae-in administration’s decision to retire the Wolseong 1 reactor unit by questioning the validity of a campaign promise by “a presidential candidate who won the election with 41 percent of the vote.”
Baek Woon-kyu — who was the first trade and industry minister under President Moon Jae-in and spearheaded the nuclear reactor phase-out policy — also backed the claims by Song. He said Choe had argued back that he could not do everything told by the president. Another DP lawmaker claimed that suspicions were building up about the BAI’s inspection on the Wolseong 1 unit during questioning.
The attack comes as the BAI readies itself to announce its findings on irregularities leading up to the government’s rash decision to retire Unit 1 of Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant before its expiration date. DP members are suspected of targeting Choe amid news reports that the government watchdog has concluded it was wrong to shut down the Wolseong 1 unit.
Under the BAI Act, the agency must have independent status, although it is under the president. The BAI should have sovereignty to oversee government agencies. The president appointed Choe to its head, touting him as the best candidate to uphold independence and political neutrality of the agency. It even highlighted the personal integrity of Choe who adopted his two sons and carried a friend with disability on his back for two years during his high school days.
But Choe became an eyesore after he took up the investigation on the reactor closure. The BAI must not come under criticism just because it does not agree with a presidential decision. The BAI’s independence is guaranteed by the law.
The ruling party’s latest action again underscores how inwardly and biased the ruling party can be. It blindly thinks a presidential decision is the best. It did the same thing to Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol whom it now regards as a common enemy. The ruling party must stop trying to tame the BAI.