A revamp is needed for the government

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A revamp is needed for the government

The majority Democratic Party (DP) and two other smaller opposition parties filed for a parliamentary probe into the Itaewon crowd crush. Once the request is accepted by the National Assembly in a plenary session on Nov. 24, probe activity could immediately start. DP floor leader Park Hong-keun urged the People Power Party (PPP) to join, while hinting at an opposition-led investigation even without the participation of the governing party.

A parliamentary probe is a constitutional right of legislators. But the probe is feared to be used as a political smear campaign against the ruling front instead of focusing on finding the liability and preventing a recurrence of such disasters. Some opposition lawmakers voiced against the move, as it could become political pageantry. The probe could end as a boisterous affair because the DP does not have investigation authority.

The government and the PPP insist they should wait until the results of the police investigation come. But there is a concern about the police investigating its own organization for its slack response to emergency calls. Earlier, Yoon Hee-keun, commissioner general of the National Police Agency (NPA), vowed not to receive any briefings on the investigation to ensure independence. But in a legislative questioning session later, he nearly confessed that he received a report on the progress of the investigation from the special investigation headquarters under himself. The arrest of Choi Seong-beom — the head of fire department in Yongsan who commanded rescue operation on the spot — has been criticized after his response contrasted sharply with the self-excuses of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min and the NPA chief.

The presidential chief of staff suggested the presidential office won’t be replacing the interior minister, saying, “It is outdated to replace minister at every disaster.” Police and fire departments fall under the responsibility of the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. The minister is the commander in chief over public safety and disaster. His comment could not be desirable. Moreover, after a controversial exchange of a memo containing the provocative line “Are you kidding me?” between two senior presidential secretaries was caught by a camera, they were evicted from the ongoing parliamentary hearing.

President Yoon Suk-yeol has been in office for six months. His approval rating has not been able to shake out of around 30 percent to reflect public disappointment over economic woes and security anxiety. He has responsibility for making amends. He must not cause any misunderstanding of trying to avoid liability over civilian deaths. He must be firm in punishment and overhaul in governance to restore public confidence.
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