The critical factor that doomed former Prime Minister-designate Kim Tae-ho was lying about when he got to know Park Yeon-cha, a businessman indicted for illegal lobbying, using a public servant as a personal maid, and his wife using a government car for personal use. Just as he said it is impossible to stand without trust, the promising 40-something could not win back the people`s trust when his lies were unveiled.
Government officials and lawmakers are public servants paid with taxpayers money and decide how to manage and execute such funds. The pattern of officials deluding the people without a sense of conscience has changed little even under the Lee Myung-bak administration. In July last year, President Lee retracted his nomination for Prosecutor General-designate Chun Sung-gwan when Chun was found to have lied about going abroad to play golf. "It is unacceptable that the man slated to become the highest prosecutor in the country lied at his confirmation hearing, President Lee said. A series of officials lies have gotten the Lee administration into trouble several times.
Many in South Korea do not believe that North Korea sank the South Korean warship Cheonan mainly because the South Korean military changed its words. More people have begun to distrust the military`s announcements because it kept changing the time of the sinking and was unsure of the cause of the attack - a flock of birds or North Korean submarines. On inter-Korean relations, the presidential office belatedly admitted that it held a secret contact with the North on an inter-Korean summit in October last year as reported by the media. South Koreans are frustrated over lying by the administration, which has stressed transparency in inter-Korean ties.
The opposition is also not free from blame for lying. Main opposition Democratic Party Rep. Lee Mi-kyung pushed nay buttons on the seats of ruling Grand National Party lawmakers but claimed no manipulation until a video clip showed her in the act. In 1999, the National Intelligence Service, the Information and Communications Ministry and the Justice Ministry ran public announcements in newspapers saying cell phones cannot be wiretapped but this was an outright lie. In 2002, Park Jie-won, who is now the opposition party`s floor leader denied wiring money to the North but his wiring of 100 million U.S. dollars to Pyongyang was later confirmed. The Dong-A Ilbo reported that the Kim Dae-jung administration wiretapped cell phones. The government at the time strongly denied the allegation but it was confirmed in 2005.
Lying by government officials goes beyond unethical behavior in that it distorts policies and disrupts democracy by misleading the choice of the people. The election of a dishonest official cannot pardon his or her lie. A nation that keeps track of lying government officials and politicians and a people who judge them can make a country truly developed.