Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) Chairman Choe Jae-hyeong testified on Thursday at a National Assembly inspection of the administration that the audit agency had so far been held back by strong headwinds and resistance when he was asked about the delay in the announcement of audit results on the validity to shut down Wolseong-1 at an earlier time. “It took so long to recover the data loss that staff at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) intentionally caused. It was also a daunting task to request and collect statements,” said Choe. “Those who received an audit did not fully collaborate. Every time they were caught lying or trying to hide the truth, we wasted extra time and effort on grilling them again and again.” The head of a constitutional institution was resolved to unveil the hidden fact that ministry officials put the brakes on the recent audit that has not yet finished since its beginning October last year.
Apart from debating on the validity of the early shutdown of the nuclear reactor, it is downright against the Constitution and gravely illegal for the trade ministry to intentionally interrupt the BAI's audit and inspection in a collective way. The Board of Audit and Inspection Act in South Korea stipulates that anyone who refuses to get audited, submit required documents or interrupt an audit is subject to imprisonment up to one year or a fine less than 10 million won. In the event that any public servant rejects an audit or is negligent of document submission, disciplinary action can be taken accordingly. Given that the head of the BAI lamented that it was the harshest time for him to conduct an audit due to an unprecedented level of resistance, it may imply that the ministry got in the BAI's way so terribly.
Considering the inflexibility and rigidity in the nation's top-down officialdom, the ministry’s working-level public servants could not have disposed of data and made false statements completely on their own despite the risk of legal punishment. An external force powerful enough to shield them from any threat or harm to personal safety and security must have been at play to enable a group of ministry staffers to resist collectively.
If such an alleged collective interruption by staffers at the ministry turns out to be true, the incumbent administration may come under suspicion that it was involved in concealing the truth. It is reasonable to include evidence of audit interruptions in the results. Those involved in such interruptive acts are supposed to be prosecuted for infringing on the BAI Act. The National Assembly should summon and interrogate ministry officials involved in the illegal act as witnesses.