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[Editorial] To be chief auditor

The current controversy over the nomination of Chung Dong-kee as the next head of the Board of Audit and Inspection raised two serious questions. One concerns the still prevalent practice of senior judges and prosecutors joining law firms upon retirement and getting huge rewards. The other is about the appropriateness of appointing a former presidential secretary to the job of top government watchdog.

Chung’s financial records presented to the National Assembly ahead of his confirmation hearing revealed that he received 700 million won ($630,000) in seven months from a law firm where he became a partner immediately after retiring as the deputy prosecutor general. This reminded the case of the present Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon who made 6 billion won in barely five years while he practiced law with a law firm after retiring as a Supreme Court justice.

Such large incomes are related to the high “winning rates” of lawsuits represented by retired senior judges or prosecutors, the evidence of favoritism in our courts and the distortion of justice in the whole legal system.

Chung was recruited to the transition committee for President Lee Myung-bak and was named senior presidential secretary for civic affairs. The president tapped him to succeed Kim Hwang-sik who had been the BAI chief until his appointment as the prime minister in October last year.

Under the Constitution, the Board of Audit and Inspection is to oversee the performance of all levels of public offices and officials in addition to auditing the finance of all government organizations and state-run corporations. In a sense, the BAI is on a par with the three branches of government in power and prestige.

President Lee’s picking up one of his secretaries to give him the top inspector’s job could reflect his underestimation of the importance of the organization and again prove his nearsightedness in personnel affairs. Not only opposition members but quite a few in the ruling camp have expressed reservations about the appropriateness of Chung’s appointment and his confirmation hearing will definitely be stormy.