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Assembly audit staggers past midway point

The National Assembly finished on Wednesday the first half of its annual inspection into government agencies, as lawmakers came under public scrutiny for their below-standard performance.

Scheduled to return to the Assembly on Oct. 1 after a recess during the Chuseok holiday, lawmakers have faced mounting criticism for engaging more in political bickering than in professional debates over policies.

Observers said the lawmakers also failed to address the dysfunctional nature of the audit, despite their initial commitment to overhaul the system.

“Despite the fact that the lawmakers have summoned 708 government agencies and 4,175 witnesses, they only indulged in embarrassing those being summoned and yelling at them. Some lawmakers didn’t even ask questions. We gave a D-grade to this year’s superficial audit session,” a nongovernmental organization monitoring the parliamentary audit said in a statement.

Lawmakers storm out of a meeting room after they clashed over the witness list for parliamentary probe. Yonhap
Lawmakers storm out of a meeting room after they clashed over the witness list for parliamentary probe. Yonhap

For example, the chiefs of staff from the Army, Navy and Air Force were summoned Monday to the judiciary committee’s inspection into the military tribunal. These top military commanders received one question each during the four-hour session. 

Similar scenes took place during the Trade Industry and Energy Committee. Among the eight governmental agencies that were brought to the stand Monday, only three of the agencies’ chiefs managed to receive questions from lawmakers. 

Some lawmakers became targets of public mockery for their questions. Rep. You Dae-woon of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy demanded the nation’s police chief “demonstrate” how to shoot a gun before lawmakers in his questioning about gun accidents.

During an audit for the Fair Trade Commission, the nation’s antitrust watchdog, Rep. Park Dae-dong of the Saenuri Party asked Lotte Chairman Shin Dong-bin whether he would root for the Korean team at a soccer match between Korea and Japan.

Critics attributed the debacle to lawmakers’ lack of expertise. “I don’t think the lawmakers are as knowledgeable about the state affairs as those working in the government. It is no secret that government officials laugh at the lawmakers’ questions behind the scenes,” said Lee Jung-hee, a political professor at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies

Meanwhile, rival parties were mired in partisanship and blamed each other for the “botched” audit session. The Saenuri Party criticized the NPAD for derailing the session by summoning too many witnesses, while the NPAD accused the Saenuri Party of hampering their efforts to secure witnesses that needed to take the stand. 

By Yeo Jun-suk  (jasonyeo@heraldcorp.com)

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