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[Editorial] Transition Committee’s Disappointing Moral Laxity

[Editorial] Transition Committee’s Disappointing Moral Laxity

Posted February. 19, 2008 03:11,   


The presidential transition committee is under fire for allegedly accepting a free meal and gifts from two provincial cities.

Nine members responsible for national competitiveness and 23 academic figures had dinner on Ganghwa Island in Gyeonggi Province Friday at a seafood restaurant. They ate roasted eel costing 160,000 won (about 170 U.S. dollars) for four persons.

Committee adviser Park Chang-ho, a professor and adviser to the Incheon City Hall, asked Incheon officials to provide a bus for the group, which comprised mostly professors from Seoul.

Park paid the tab of 1.89 million won with his school credit card after allowing Incheon to pick up the bill. He later changed his mind, however, to avoid trouble. Receiving gifts from the Ganghwa mayor, Park might have had a sweet dream of wielding power upon his return to Seoul.

The public has been speechless after hearing of the disappointing behavior of those preparing for the new administration. A small part of something can be indicative of the whole. Several of those involved in the incident could play major roles over the next five years under the Lee Myung-bak administration. Given their implication in the unpleasant incident even before taking office, it is not difficult to presume how they might behave after coming to power.

Those involved in accepting the gifts not only violated the internal regulations of the transition committee but also tarnished the image of the incoming government. Considering they went to faraway Ganghwa Island to being dined on a weekday, the committee members can hardly be cited for an industrious work ethic any longer.

The committee earlier fired Goh Jong-wan, an adviser for real estate policy, for charging high consultation fees by taking advantage of his position on the body. Another adviser Park Gwang-moo was removed after he was found to have surveyed the political appetites of journalists.

The nation is frowning at the committee for its inconsistent policy on English immersion education and imprudent proposal to restore the burned gate Sungnyemun with tax money. As if these are not enough, the committee’s involvement in such a disappointing incident adds fuel to the public’s anger.

This controversy is sure to hurt the Grand National Party in the April general elections. The conservative party is leading in voter support throughout the country except in the Jeolla region, and could emerge as the major force in the National Assembly through the elections. If that is the case, no party will be able to keep the Grand National Party’s political wrongdoings and irregularities in check.

The party should remember that it returned to power after a decade thanks to the public desire for economic revival. But it could be just a matter of time before the public’s hope turns into grave disappointment.

Committee chairwoman Lee Kyung-sook said, “We deeply apologize to the public over the unsavory incident with the launch of new government just around the corner.” She said those involved will be harshly punished to prevent similar incidents from recurring. For the past 50 days, Lee has apologized four times, showing her lack of proper management and administrative skills. This incident should be fully investigated to prevent those implicated from wielding power in the next government.