Don’t bend the rulesThe main opposition People Power Party (PPP) recommended two conservative lawyers Im Jeong-hyuk and Lee Hun for its share of two seats on a committee of seven panels reviewing and shortlisting candidates for the inaugurating head of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO). Under the act on the establishment of a new investigation agency, five panelists fielded by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and two from the PPP make up the body to select the administrator. Two shortlisted candidates endorsed by at least six of the seven members can be submitted for designation by the president. They cannot pass if the two members from the opposition party disapprove.
The DP proposed the arrangement after its railroading of the special investigation agency act drew public criticism and suspicion about launching it to help defend its governing power. While fast-tracking the act to establish a new investigation body on top of the prosecution without the participation of the PPP, the DP assured that it cannot unilaterally name the chief of the anticorruption agency. The DP said the panel arrangement was aimed at ensuring a bipartisan choice.
But when it found the PPP tilted toward conservative members, the DP threatened to amend the act to reduce the quota for the PPP’s recommendation to one member. That would strip the PPP of its veto power. The DP’s rashness raised suspicion that the ruling front already had a candidate in mind who could be disapproved by the PPP.
When the DP first designed the provision in the law, it might not have expected the two seats to go to the PPP alone. At that time, the opposition front was divided between two minority parties with a negotiating right. However, after the April 15 parliamentary elections, only the DP and the PPP became negotiating blocs. Even if its plan has not panned out as it had expected, the DP must play by the rule it had set. It is foul to revise the law because it does not meet its design.
If the DP proposes neutral, able and respectful candidates, the PPP cannot have strong grounds to oppose. But if the DP’s choices for the head of the agency evidently serve only the ruling power and oppress challenging forces, PPP members are bound to use their veto power. The people also won’t tolerate it. It must ruminate on the genuine goal of the new investigation agency aimed at rooting out corruption in officialdom if it really does not want the agency’s role to be challenged even before it is launched.