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The Morality of the Administration

Posted August. 25, 2010 08:18,   


Parliamentary confirmation hearings for Cabinet nominees started Monday after a major reshuffle was conducted Aug. 8. As a result, the morality of the Lee Myung-bak administration is under question again. The administration has been criticized several times over the past two and half years over the ethics of high-ranking officials, but many feel it is more serious this time.

Ten Cabinet nominees undergoing confirmation hearings face one or two suspicions ranging from real estate speculation, false residential registration, dodging military service, and tax evasion to plagiarizing academic papers or repeated publication of them, the nationality of their children, and improper monetary transactions. Some are suspicions but others are clear violations of the law such as tax evasion. Many real estate transactions seemed speculative though they were not illegal. It is an earful to hear “I was wrong,” “I’m sorry,” or “I regret.” It is doubtful whether the nominees can gain the people’s trust even if they survive their confirmation hearings.

In a meeting of his senior secretaries Monday, President Lee Myung-bak said, “Recommendations should not be made based on different standards every time. Make stricter standards for screening.” This raises the question of whether he selected people without clear principles or standards. It sounds like the presidential office has a screening process but the standards change depending on the person. Because the government selects figures that are far from what the people expect every time, criticism over its moral insensitivity is inevitable.

In July last year, the presidential office said it would strengthen its screening system and focus on weeding out unqualified people when Prosecutor-General-designate Chun Sung-gwan was disqualified for having had an illegal sponsor. It was all just talk, however. Even for false residential registration, the presidential office said, “Our internal guidelines allow false residential registration if related to children’s education but not for real estate speculation.” More than 5,000 people have been punished for false residential registration over the past decade. Has the government punished them under the same standard?

The public can no longer expect morality from high-ranking officials under this administration. The problem is that such disappointment does not stop with the evaluation of the incumbent administration. The fear is that this could give the people the perception that a conservative government is immoral and that this could prevent conservatives from taking power again. If President Lee recognizes the severity of the problem, he should apply stricter standards to Cabinet nominees who passed confirmation hearings to decide whether to appoint or disqualify them.