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Is Sewol investigation committee becoming tax-guzzling power authority?

Is Sewol investigation committee becoming tax-guzzling power authority?

Posted January. 19, 2015 07:11,   


The special investigation committee on Sewol ferry accident, which is set to launch under the Sewol Special Act, has become a target of criticism even before it takes the first step. Critics point out that the secretariat for the investigation committee is too big for its size and the budget was set too high. Even worse, it is quite concerning that activities of the committee`s establishment preparation group, which handles composition of the organization and budgeting, are not transparent to an extent where even a committee member knows about what the group does via media reports.

According to the preparation group’s proposal, the total number of personnel is 125, but it has disproportionate number of executive level officials with 59 civil servants in the 5th grade or higher. Although the committee is a temporary organization that lasts for 21 months at maximum, its secretariat has four divisions and 14 departments giving impression of a bureaucratic juggernaut. The special committee’s chairman may be mistaken about his position as a minister of the government ministry, as the committee plans to have policy secretaries under the chairman.

It is hard to understand why the committee allocated 670 million won (approx. 620,000 U.S. dollars) for PR and advertisement out of the demanded budget amount of 24.1 billion won (approx. 22.3 million dollars). It is quite curious why the investigation committee, of which duties are faithful investigation and fact-finding, has to spend whopping amount for PR and advertisement. Questions are lingering whether it is appropriate to allocate 1.1 billion won for data collection, domestic and overseas seminars, 800 million won for recording of testimony from survivors, and 40 million won for debates across the nation. Hwang Jeon-won, an investigation committee member recommended by the ruling party, said it is "unprecedentedly weird" budget allocation.

So far, the truth of the deadly sunken ferry Sewol has been sufficiently disclosed by prosecutors’ investigation, trials at courts and the parliamentary investigation. Nonetheless, the committee has been launched based on the public’s desire to make a "safe Korea." Therefore, composition and budget allocation of the special committee must commensurate with the public’s common sense. Of course, the committee must put highest priority in the integrity and transparency in terms of spending budgets and its activities.

The executive department of the Sewol Victim Families Committee sparked criticism by exercising violence against a chauffeur, as if it were an authority holding extraterritorial right. If the special investigation committee turns into a venue to provide job opportunities to political activists or becomes a tax-guzzling organization just as other previous special committees did, whatever results the committee provides will not be able to earn trust from the public. It must refrain from triggering unnecessary ideological conflict. From the start, the special investigation committee must not allow itself to throw its weight around or grow into an organization that wields absolute power.