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Too little, too late

Dec 15,2018
The Blue House announced an outline to revamp the special investigation team under the presidential office on Friday. Cho Kuk, the senior secretary for civil affairs, is in charge of restructuring the team after they were accused of playing free golf during office hours and one of the members of the team interfered with a police bribery investigation. The revamp, however, raises questions over whether the presidential office seriously deliberated the gravity of the scandal, as the move appeared to be aimed at hastily ending the controversy.

The Blue House changed the title of the team and announced that it will include not just police and prosecutors, but also representatives from the Board of Audit and Inspection and National Tax Service. Their work has also been more strictly specified. They must get approval for their activities from their division superior and report before and afterwards if they come in contact with senior cabinet members and the heads of public institutions. Investigators also cannot be involved in the transfer of documents on surveillance activities. The guidelines were added to ensure internal discipline and prevent outside influence in the internal investigation activities.

But the order of the remedial action is wrong. Before making corrections, the presidential office should have thoroughly investigated the wrongdoings that led to the scandal. Taking action to prevent further malpractice would be most appropriate after finding out what made the misdeeds possible in the first place. President Moon Jae-in said the nature of the scandal can be judged by the people after the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announces the results of its investigation. The overhaul outline therefore should have come after the prosecution’s probe. It remains unclear whether the investigators played golf during office hours or during breaks, or if a member really asked a cabinet minister for a promotion. The prosecution and presidential office should have been eager to clear up these suspicions first.

The reform outlines are also disappointing. The fact that the office has to specify the need for the inspectors to seek advanced approval to launch investigations or report on the results of their meetings with ministers and vice ministers indicates how lax they have been so far. If the presidential office is out to shut the stable door after the horse has bolted, it should at least do a good job. Changing the team’s name and internal regulations is not a lasting solution.

JoongAng Sunday, Dec. 15, Page 34