|Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn (center) answers a lawmaker’s question at the National Assembly audit on Friday. (Yonhap News)|
The annual audit, the first since the launch of the Park Geun-hye administration, kicked off on Oct. 14 after weeks of wrangling between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party, amid concerns that its sheer scale would prevent thorough inspections.
More than 620 organizations were inspected, making this year’s event the largest on record.
Despite the large number of organizations under the National Assembly’s scrutiny, many of the issues were buried by those regarding last year’s presidential election and the Lee Myung-bak administration’s four-river restoration project.
During the audit, Yoon Seok-yeol, former chief of the prosecution’s probe into the National Intelligence Service’s alleged election meddling, claimed that his investigation was hampered by political pressure.
As related developments engulfed the two parties, the ruling party accused the DP of refuting the legitimacy of the Dec. 19 election. For its part, the DP hit back saying that the Saenuri Party was ignoring constitutional values.
The expanding controversy ― which has launched criminal investigations and placed the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office under audit ― was further aided by allegations of election meddling by other government organizations.
The audit on the Ministry of National Defense gave rise to allegations that its Cyber Command conducted an online campaign aimed at damaging Rep. Moon Jae-in’s presidential campaign. The Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs has also come under fire from the opposition for allegedly producing booklets that describe progressive politicians, including late Presidents Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun, as pro-North Korean leftists.
Although the audit did unearth irregularities in unrelated state organizations and set a new precedent of lawmakers visiting the inter-Korean industrial complex in Gaeseong, North Korea, the two sides are already blaming each other for shortcomings.
“The DP blocked the normal progression of the audit, and pushed the operations of some standing committees into disarray,” Saenuri Party floor spokesman Rep. Hong Ji-man said. He went on to accuse DP lawmakers of turning their backs on issues that concern the public and instead focusing on political bickering.
“The DP must reflect on the old practices they showed during the parliamentary audit.”
As for the DP, the party doesn’t appear to be quite ready to move on despite the small advances it has achieved so far. The DP’s street rallies to pressure President Park Geun-hye to take the NIS scandal into her hands had little influence, while Saenuri Party candidates took Wednesday’s by-elections by storm.
“The situation must end with an apology from the president,” DP chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil said Friday.
The DP does, however, appear to be looking for an exit from the election feud, and much of its focus has moved on to scrutinizing the government’s policies.
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)