Controversy is growing over the unexpected resignation by the head of the state auditor, with the opposition accusing Cheong Wa Dae of exerting pressure on him to step down from the post.
Yang Kun, the head of the Board of Audit and Inspection, offered to resign late Friday night, though his constitutionally guaranteed four-year tem ends in March 2015.
Reports suggested earlier that Yang himself chose to step down from the post to release the political burden from President Park Geun-hye over the BAI’s inconsistent and controversial assessment of the four-river restoration project, a mega state project pushed by her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.
However, fresh allegations were raised over the weekend that Yang’s decision may have come after he collided with Cheong Wa Dae over the presidential office’s recommendation of Park’s former aide to a high-level position at the agency.
The debate is expected to further escalate as the opposition parties aim to reinforce their offensives against Park. For the opposition, proving Cheong Wa Dae’s purported pressure appears to be vital to directly target Park in their political tug-of-war.
Park, six months into office, has so far managed to distance herself from political tit-for-tat by remaining mostly mute to opponents’ calls or reiterating her “irrelevance” to politics.
Cheong Wa Dae reportedly pushed the BAI chief to name Chang Hoon, a professor at ChungAng University in Seoul who worked for the presidential transition committee early this year, as an agency commissioner.
Yang reportedly objected the idea, citing the BAI’s position to maintain neutrality. His resignation came after Cheong Wa Dae disapproved his opposition, reports said.
|DP members hold a press conference calling on Cheong Wa Dae to stop its alleged interference into the Board of Audit and Inspection on Sunday. (Yonhap News)|
The main opposition Democratic Party on Sunday urged Cheong Wa Dae to clarify its position over such reports, pointing out that the BAI chief’s tenure as well as his political independence are guaranteed by the Constitution.
“Cheong Wa Dae should step up to uncover the truth before the people,” said Reps. Park Ji-won and Seo Young-kyo in a joint statement at a news conference held at the National Assembly in the afternoon. “(We) express concerns about (Cheong Wa Dae) brutally damaging the BAI’s (political) independence guaranteed by the Constitution,” they said.
They added that the BAI chief has fallen as a sacrifice to a deepening political feud between the old and new governments.
Upon the BAI’s latest audit that found the four-river plan harboring “hidden motives,” Cheong Wa Dae immediately called the project a “deception” while Lee’s side called the report “politically motivated.”
Both Yang and Cheong Wa Dae remained silent over the weekend.
The BAI said it will hold a farewell ceremony for Yang on Monday morning, indicating that Park seems to have accepted Yang’s resignation. Yang is expected to address his reasons for leaving office at the ceremony.
Yang has retained the post since his appointment in March 2011 despite the administration change.
However, the former law professor has been under criticism after a series of inconsistent BAI reports on the outcome of the probe the four-river project.
In 2011, the BAI said the 22 trillion won ($19.8 billion) project had no problems. But in January this year when Lee’s presidency was nearing an end, the state auditor reversed its previous stance, saying the project was a failure.
In its latest report released on July 10, the BAI said that the previous government pushed the project with the intention to build a cross-country canal network.
By Cho Chung-un (firstname.lastname@example.org