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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Jan. 13)

Editorials from Korean dailies 06:59 January 13, 2023

Clear the question over inspection

The presidential office at Yongsan plans to set up a civil service inspection team under the presidential secretary for civil service discipline. The office cited the need to prevent social disasters like the Itaewon tragedy, stabilize people's livelihoods and tighten discipline in officialdom in the second year of Yoon Suk Yeol's presidency. But concerns arose as the office of the prime minister also prepares an inspection team for high-ranking officials.

The two bodies are not only redundant, but also can trigger friction over authority. Some observers worry that the civil service inspection team under the presidential secretary for civil affairs during the Moon Jae-in administration could revive in the Yoon administration. The office of the presidential secretary for civil affairs was disbanded by President Yoon himself for its abuse of power against political enemies to find all possible dirt on them. To quell such concerns, the presidential office must fix the confusion. For instance, the inspection team in the presidential office could oversee high-level officials — such as the first and second-grade ones — which the prime minister's office can hardly oversee.

At the same time, the government must clearly define the role of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO), which was established during the Moon administration. Some politicians even demand the extra law enforcement agency be dismantled immediately. After its launch in 2021, the CIO sent as many as 1,390 cases to the Supreme Prosecutors' Office that year. But the CIO conducted its own investigation on only two cases. Why do we really need such a strange agency?

Recently, the CIO even sent back a sensitive case to the prosecution after taking it from prosecutors for its own probe. In another case involving a former senior prosecutor indiced by the CIO on bribery charge — its first indictment — the defendant was found not guilty in the first trial. Nevertheless, the CIO only complains about lack of manpower and cooperation with the prosecution.

The government also must appoint a new head of the office of special inspector in the presidential office, which has been empty for seven years. The office is tasked to oversee the president's spouse and close relatives.

And yet, a budget of 1 billion won ($803,213) was allocated to let the office stay afloat this year. That's a sheer waste of taxes. President Yoon must listen to criticism for only trying to tame public servants without taking care of his own relatives. The government must establish more efficient and fair systems to deal with work ethics of civil servants.

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