The vice practice of summoning entrepreneurs as witnesses are happening again, just ahead of the parliamentary inspection of government offices, which opens on October 10.
Major standing committees such as the State Affairs Committee have appointed or negotiating to appoint entrepreneurs, including heads of Korean conglomerates, as witnesses. On Tuesday, the National Assembly announced the list of witnesses, which included Samsung Electronics CEO Koh Dong-jin, LG Electronics Vice Chairman Cho Sung-jin, Naver Global Investment Officer (GIO) Lee Hae-jin, Kakao Chairman Kim Beom-su and other IT businesses owners or CEOs.
This practice is nothing new, it was been staged repeatedly in previous national assembly inspections. There have been numerous occasions where answers could have been easily answered at working-level, instead of top executives, who are forced to sit for hours to give meek answers or even not questioned at all. There have been even cases where entrepreneurs have been bribed to be removed from the list, on the condition that they would “resolve” issues at the local district level. Similar practices are likely to take place this year as well.
Last year, the parliament introduced "witness real name verification system" for the parliamentary inspection, which mandates the disclosure of list of witnesses and the reason for attendance. The measure was introduced to prevent indiscriminate witness appointment of entrepreneurs. However, the State Affairs Committee, which appointed 39 entrepreneurs as witnesses, did not disclose the reason for appointment, along with the Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee. It is questionable why such rules were created in the first place if they are not kept.
It is ridiculous that the Agriculture, Food, Rural Affairs, Oceans and Fisheries Committee appointed Samsung Electronics CEO Kim Ki-nam and other heads of conglomerates whose business has no relation to the agriculture industry as witnesses. The reason stated was “the lack of interest in the business sector regarding funding for agriculture and fishery industries impacted by Free Trade Agreements.” The Committee planned to receive funding of 1 trillion won over a decade, but when funds stalled at 27.8 billion won, local lawmakers chose to pressure businesses to increase their share of funds.
The national audit of government offices, which was revived in 1988, is targeted towards the government and metropolitan councils. Occasions involving businesspersons as witnesses should be limited to circumstances related to government budget or policy. Lawmakers should change their mindset of abusing their power to summon businesspersons. National Assembly Speaker Chung Se-kyun even went so far to say that the "National Assembly should not abuse its power” at the national audit session last year. Lawmakers should refrain from calling businesspersons to attend unnecessary sessions.