The Democratic Party of Korea heavily attacked Choe Jae-hyeong, the chairman of the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI), at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly on Wednesday. The members of the ruling party claimed that Choe has made comments criticizing the government’s denuclearization policy during the BAI’s audit of the early closure decision for Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant-1 (Wolseong-1). They even demanded his resignation for revealing his political bias.
According to the explanation provided by Choe at the National Assembly, then-Minister of Science, ICT and Future Planning Baek Woon-Gyu said during investigation, “Denuclearization was one of the president’s election pledges and most South Koreans have supported it,” to which Choe replied, “President Moon Jae-in has earned 41 percent of the vote to win the election – would you say that it is most South Koreans?” While the ruling party condemns the chairman’s comment as contesting the election results, it is intentional distortion of the comment’s context and meaning.
The economic evaluation of Wolseong-1, whose maintenance and repair spending amounted to 700 billion won, was in favor of the continued operation of the power plant. However, the board of directors of Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power decided to close it in June 2018. The BAI is looking into whether the economic evaluation, which was a decisive matter in the early closure, had been done properly and without external pressure. While the subject of the audit argued to defend himself that denuclearization is supported by most South Koreans, Choe pointed to the fact that just because it is one of the president’s election pledges it does not necessarily mean that it has earned support from most South Korean people.
The BAI’s audit of Wolseong-1 began in October last year upon the request of the National Assembly, however, it is yet to be concluded even surpassing the legal audit period of five months. There are rumors that different opinions between the chairman and auditors appointed by the current administration are what has deferred the selection of the final report on several occasions. Given the circumstances, the ruling party seems to have chosen to prevent negative audit results for the government’s denuclearization policy stance by attacking Choe. The fact that Choe opposed the appointment of a pro-government figure recommended by the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae for an empty seat in the audit committee with concerns about political bias.
The BAI, although directly under the responsibility of the president, is an independent constitutional institution. The independence of the board has been protected for 86 years after democratization as an inviolable matter. No administration in the past has ever attacked the chairman of the board for sharing views not in line with its political interests. The ruling party must stop their actions violating the principle of the Constitution and damaging the foundation of democracy.