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Audit agency to launch 4th probe into 4 rivers refurbishment project

All News 11:22 June 14, 2017

SEOUL, June 14 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's state audit agency said Wednesday that it will launch another probe into the land and environment ministries over a controversial project implemented by a previous administration to refurbish the country's four main rivers.

The probe, the fourth of its kind by the Board of Audit and Inspection, comes after President Moon Jae-in on May 22 raised the necessity of a "policy inspection" on the decision-making and implementation process of the 22 trillion-won (US$20 billion) project.

An alliance of 40 environmental activist groups, including Green Korea, has filed an application with the audit body to inspect the water quality management and environmental impact assessment of the project.

The project, launched under the Lee Myung-bak administration to clean up rivers and mitigate seasonal floods and droughts, lasted from 2009 to early 2013. Lee, who served as president from 2008 to 2013, spearheaded the project aimed at improving water security and enhancing the ecosystems of South Korea's four major river -- the Han, Nakdong, Geum and Yeongsan.

Audit agency to launch 4th probe into 4 rivers refurbishment project - 1

The conservative administrations of Lee and his successor Park Geun-hye have claimed that the project helped restore the ecosystem. But critics said that the dam system worsened water quality and sparked the spread of green tides that are toxic to fish and other aquatic animals.

The audit body will examine the entire process of the project ranging from the decision-making and planning to construction works and water quality.

It is expected to come up with the results of the probe in October after its auditors start a preliminary investigation into the project this week and inspect the rivers next month.

The audit body's decision to launch the fourth inspection of the project will likely draw fire from the conservative camp, as well as Lee and his aides.

Reacting to the president's call for the inspection, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party and the splinter conservative Bareun Party criticized the incumbent administration of launching a political reprisal against Lee.

Lee's aides have insisted the issue of the controversial project has been settled as the audit body completed three of its own inspections.

But the audit body made it clear the scope of the envisioned inspection is different from the three previous inspections, and it has no intention of targeting the previous governments.

Under the law on public officials, the audit body is not allowed to demand public officials be punished even if they are held responsible for any wrongdoings or irregularities as the three-year to five-year statute of limitations for such demands has expired.

The presidential office Cheong Wa Dae earlier said the inspection is not aimed at exposing individuals' illegal acts but meant to learn lessons that could be useful for the government in the decision and implementation of policies.


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