|Adding insult to injury, the partisan bickering over the government’s illegal surveillance of citizens is becoming fiercer _ and uglier. And the responsibility for the political dogfight rest largely, if not wholly, in the hands of the Lee Myung-bak administration and the ruling Saenuri Party.
In the wake of the revelation by striking television journalists that the government committed unlawful spying on private citizens between 2008 and 2010, Cheong Wa Dae struck back, stressing 82 percent of the 2,619 cases cited in the document were done by the previous administration. As it turned out immediately, however, the parts related with the Roh Moo-hyun government were mostly inspection reports, which were not just legal but a necessary part of the police’s job.
If Lee’s chief press secretary had made the counterattack by failing to tell legal inspection (of public officials) from illegal surveillance (of ordinary citizens), he was utterly ignorant. If he had done so knowingly, it was a brazen, irresponsible act to water down wrongdoing, and ugly political engineering.
The governing party is little better. A Saenuri spokesman called for the Lee administration to make a public apology, sack the justice minister, who served as senior presidential secretary for civilian affairs at the time, and name an independent counsel to investigate both the incumbent and previous administration. These appear to be necessary steps, but underneath them are also attempts to protect Cheong Wa Dae _ and Lee.
If the President had received reports about this serious incident and pretended ignorance, it is a grave dereliction of duty and cover-up subject to even impeachment. Even if he had not, Lee cannot avoid responsibility for poor management of his aides and secretaries. In any case, it is neither the Prime Minister’s Office nor any other agency but the chief executive himself that should apologize to the people. No less absurd is the call for probing both the present and past governments, given the prosecution’s inability _ or unwillingness _ to look into what happened a few years ago.
What all this reflects is evident: the total lack of a guilty conscience about this glaring violation on the part of the governing camp and their efforts only to minimize its political fallout on next week’s parliamentary polls.
The surveillance of innocent citizens by government agencies is a crime far more serious than corruption, as it infringes on the most basic rights of the people stipulated in the Constitution. This administration has committed it not for national security but for the regime’s stability, and through such illegal means as wiretapping without warrants, opening up emails and chasing financial accounts.
At a time when the prosecution has long been reduced to being the maiden of the power elite, neither the independent counsel named by the President nor a special investigative unit can regain the public’s trust.
The answer should lie in a bipartisan parliamentary panel composed of newly-elected lawmakers in the 19th National Assembly. People should elect representatives capable of doing that job. If voters can’t feel enraged about this egregious crime, they will have to live five more years with more of the same.
4월 4일 (수) The Korea Times 사설