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Blue House to reform anti-corruption bureau

Dec 15,2018
Officials from the Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Tax Service will be added to a scandal-plagued Blue House anti-corruption bureau.

The measure was part of a reform plan announced Friday in a written statement by Cho Kuk, the presidential senior secretary for civil affairs, whose office supervised the bureau.

The bureau was composed of members from the police and prosecution before all of them were fired last month. The bureau’s job was to monitor signs of corruption among high-level government officials and the president’s family. If they found issues, they would refer those cases to investigative authorities, like the police or prosecutors’ offices.

Members of the bureau were fired in late November after local media outlets alleged that some members played golf during office hours. One prosecutor in the bureau also collected information from police on a bribery investigation into an acquaintance by pretending it was linked to the Blue House when it actually wasn’t.

The Blue House acknowledged the bribery case and said the prosecutor was immediately sent back to the prosecution, but it has yet to admit whether the bureau members actually went golfing.

On Friday, Cho said the special inspection bureau will change its name into the public service inspection bureau in order to water down the “authoritative” nuance of the old name.

The new public service inspection bureau will recruit members not only from the police and prosecution but also from the Board of Audit and Inspection and the National Tax Service, Cho said. None of the four organizations will make up more than one-third of the entire bureau, which used to have 20 to 30 people.

Cho continued that the inspection bureau will operate on a new set of 21 rules chiefly aimed at preventing any possibility that bureau staff may interfere in investigations that have already been referred to authorities or receive favors from people they are supposed to monitor.

Bureau members will be required to receive formal permission from the bureau head before looking into any new allegation. In case they contact a minister, vice minister or some other head of a government organization, they must report that fact to the bureau head before and after the contact. Cho added that he will keep the number of times bureau staff meet those they inspect face-to-face to a minimum in order to prevent them from being exposed to “unjust requests.”

The crew will also be banned from interfering in any cases that have been referred to investigative authorities and can refuse to carry out any “unfair order” given by a superior.

Cho said Moon was informed about the reform measures on Dec. 7 and gave his approval to them.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]