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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Aug. 26)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:56 August 26, 2022

Don't abuse state audits
Ensure political neutrality of the Board of Audit and Inspection

The state inspection agency has caused controversy over its plan to conduct an audit into the previous Moon Jae-in administration's renewable energy projects. It has also invited criticism for looking into whether the Moon government properly handled the supply and management of COVID-19 vaccines.

On Tuesday, the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) announced a list of 34 planned inspections for the second half of this year. The list included audits on the energy projects and the vaccine issue. Most of the plans seem to be politically motivated because they apparently target the Moon administration. That's why they are drawing a strong backlash from the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK).

First of all, the BAI should conduct its audits and inspections in an objective, impartial and fair manner, in order to assuage criticism and clear up controversy. It is necessary to probe alleged abuse of power and other misdeeds by the previous government after a new administration has been installed. Yet, the purpose of its inspections should not be politically motivated. Otherwise, the BAI cannot shed light on the previous government's policy failures and mismanagement of state affairs.

Thus, the state agency should carry out its missions independently without being influenced by political power or outside pressure. If it fails to uphold its independence and political neutrality, the BAI cannot faithfully play its crucial role as a watchdog. For this reason, the Yoon Suk-yeol administration should not dare to mobilize the inspection agency to dig up alleged dirt on former President Moon and his associates as part of a malicious political vendetta.

In this regard, it is regrettable that BAI Chair Choe Jae-hae said recently that the BAI is an agency that supports the president's execution of state affairs. His remarks entirely missed the mark. He should not try to curry favor with powers that be, because he is the head of the agency tasked with rectifying the government's policy mistakes and failures through audits and inspections.

President Yoon, for his part, should not attempt to tame the BAI just as his predecessor had done. Moon and his officials had tried to prevent then BAI Chair Choi Jae-hyung from investigating allegations that the Moon government manipulated data to shut down the aged Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor earlier than its lifespan as part of its nuclear energy phase-out policy.

The BAI did not include the nuclear phase-out policy in its inspection plans this time because it already looked into the policy last year. Instead, the agency plans to probe the renewable energy projects to check if they were executed properly in order to achieve the goal of realizing carbon neutrality by 2050. The BAI also needs to find out why the Moon government failed to secure COVID-19 vaccines as early as possible to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in 2020.

The BAI is investigating the killing of a fishery official by the North Korean military, which has ignited controversy over the Moon government's failure to save him and its alleged attempt to cover up the case. It is also conducting audits of various agencies, including the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission, in an alleged bid to pressure their heads into quitting, as they were appointees of the Moon administration. The Yoon government should stop using state audits and inspections for political purposes. Instead, it must spare no efforts to ensure the independence and political neutrality of the BAI.
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