There always seem to be one or two rotten apples in every parliamentary probe. They usually ask irrelevant and illogical questions and when disclosed that they are ignorant, they often treat high-ranking officials at the witness stand with a high hand, yelling Enough! Under the Kim Young-sam administration (1992-97), a lawmaker confronted a minister who testified before the parliamentary probe committee. When the speechless minister tried to ignore the lawmaker, saying, That one makes sense, the lawmaker said, Thats enough! Every time a parliamentary probe is broadcast live on TV, the National Assembly hall is filled with the hurling words of thunder.
Though not as serious as in the past, lawmakers preference for yelling Enough! remains unchanged. Eleven chairmen of oil refineries, department stores and automakers were summoned to a meeting of the National Policy Committee probe yesterday. Main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Cho Kyeong-tae raised his voice to SK Energy President Kim Jun-ho, saying, Given that the won-dollar rate fell to 955 won in 2006 from 1,144 won in 2004, you must be enjoying more operating profits. When Kim said foreign exchange profit or loss should not be calculated using operating profits, Cho said, Enough. An explanation from GS Caltex CEO Rah Wan-bae was also dismissed by the same yell.
This is nothing new in the parliamentary probe. Among 16 standing committees except for special committees, the policy committee is the only one that can convene entrepreneurs as witnesses since it takes charge of the Fair Trade Commission. For businessmen who rarely stand before the parliamentary probe, they feel the heavy-handed atmosphere uncomfortable and their witnesses are probably not very articulate. Moreover, lawmakers tend to ask tedious questions, storming at witnesses but hardly giving them a chance to answer. The time limit is cited as a reason, but what is a probe for if things go this way?
Since many businesses are in a state of emergency this year, calling an entrepreneur as a witness to a parliamentary probe often meets cold public opinion. Waiting several hours for the probe is frequent. With growing public outcry over the robe, lawmakers arguments over price-fixing schemes among refineries or unfair transactions among department stores and carmakers rarely draw public attention. To their chagrin, lawmakers must be reaping what they sow.
Editorial Writer Kim Chang-hyeok (firstname.lastname@example.org)