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Government’s Attempt to Reveal Personnel Information Is Stirring Controversy

Government’s Attempt to Reveal Personnel Information Is Stirring Controversy

Posted July. 18, 2005 03:09,   


Stimulated by President Roh Moo-hyun’s directions calling for a singularly powerful measure that can curb the corruption of influential and powerful figures in society, it is under consideration to reveal the information of former and current high-ranking government officials who have been involved in any corruption scandal. This government’s action, however, is expected to stir up serious controversy.

According to Cheong Wa Dae on July 17, President Roh Moo-hyun issued an order at a meeting of the Korean Independent Commission Against Corruption (KICAC) by saying, “In order to prevent corruption and immoral behavior committed by influential figures in society that can hamper society as whole, the Ministry of Justice and KICAC should seriously consider revealing the information about them and sharing it with the private sector.”

Regarding this, a reliable source from Cheong Wa Dae said, “It has frequently happened that corrupt and less qualified figures gained privileged positions again because when private companies and organizations hired new executive members, they didn’t have any channel to know whether they were related to any corruption scandals and immoral activities,” adding, “Therefore, we are considering the development of a national information service system that can help the private sector access related information when they request it.”

It is also being heard that former and current government officials who have been involved in any corruption previously will be the first target of this measure.

However, the source also said, “It is not a matter of if we can implement right now because it requires a lot of work for the examination of its lawfulness,” adding, “President Roh also stressed at the meeting that we should undergo in-depth examinations because this measure is very likely to contradict with personal privacy and human rights principles.”

Meanwhile, presidential spokesman Kim Man-soo said, “Even though President Roh directed this measure at the meeting, this was just the president’s suggestion to the KICAC for consideration. Therefore, there is no conclusion on who are being targeted and what kinds of information are to be revealed.”

Regarding this, those in business and legal circles responded by saying, “Even though it is understandable for the government to boot out any corrupted officials from the private sector as well, we have no idea on its feasibility because of possible side effects such as the violation of privacy.”

Currently, the office of the presidential secretary of personnel affairs has personnel information on about 1,200 candidates for minister positions, and the Committee on Government Officials’ Ethics has information about the property of former and current government officials above the fourth rank.

However, experts indicated that how much information the government reveals will determine whether or not such side effects as the violation of privacy, human rights abuse and clashes regarding the Act on the Protection of Personal Information will really take place. They also added that suspicions of the political purpose beyond this measure can be possibly addressed.

Jung-Hun Kim jnghn@donga.com