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Lawmakers exempted from special inspector system

Posted March. 01, 2014 09:30,   


According to the law on the appointment of a special inspector that was approved by the National Assembly on Friday, the special inspector will head an independent organization for three years, and will inspect constantly the spouse and relatives (cousin or closer) of the president, and senior presidential secretaries or higher officials. The problem is, however, that the targets subject to special inspection by the inspector exclude lawmakers, and ranking officials in the government, including ministers and vice ministers.

The ruling and opposition parties used the logic that the right to inspect lawmakers by a special inspector named by the president constitutes violation of the principle of separation of powers. If that is the case, is it violation of the principle of separation of power for public prosecutors appointed by the president to investigate corruptions committed by lawmakers? We have every reason to doubt that the political circle, which has little intention to give up their privileges, colluded to exclude themselves from surveillance by the special inspection authority.

Exclusion of judges and prosecutors, and ranking government officials from those subject to special inspection is believed to be lawmakers’ plot to dodge expected criticism over their exemption. The political circle cited objection by the conventional investigation authorities and problems with overlapping inspection as an excuse for such exemption, but this is hardly persuasive. Rather, if all those officials are subjected to the special inspector system, it will help prevent investigation and law enforcement authorities from being passive about discovery of corruptions and irregularities or getting temptation to scale down investigation, prompting a competition among them. Critics also raise concern that since the special inspector has no enforceable investigation authority, including the rights to raid and search and forceful summons, and only can demand submission of data and investigation through hearings, the “special inspection right” will only prove to be a paper tiger.

The ruling and opposition parties also passed a bill on the appointment of an independent counsel so that it can conduct an immediate investigation soon after the National Assembly approves or the Justice Minister demands. Instead of an "organizational independent counsel system" that calls for the appointment of a standing independent counsel with a fixed-term, the National Assembly thus adopted an "institutional independent counsel system," which newly appoints a special counsel case by case. Critics also question how the new independent counsel is different from the conventional independent counsel, given that if a lawmaker from the ruling or opposition parties suggests, an independent counsel can be adopted only when more than half of the registered lawmakers attend a parliamentary session, and more than half of those in attendance approve. From a different perspective, however, the new independent counsel system has been strengthened by making it impossible for the president to veto adoption of an independent counsel, and an independent counsel shall be adopted immediately when the justice minister demands an independent counsel over corruption cases involving ranking prosecutors.