Overseas resources review ‘urgent’ in South Korea
The South Korean Board of Audit and Inspection has announced the outcome of its audit of the government-funded projects for securing overseas resources.
The BAI said since 2003, three state-run energy firms Korea National Oil Corp., Korea Gas Corp. and Korea Resources Corp. had invested a total of 31.4 trillion won (US$28.7 billion) in 116 projects. Of this, 27 trillion won was spent during the Lee Myung-bak administration (2008-2013) and the rest during the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-2008).
Of the total investment, BAI officials said, only 4.6 trillion won has been recovered, with 3.4 trillion won already written off as losses and the fate of the remaining 23.4 trillion won uncertain.
One knows that sometimes the BAI compromises its objectivity and neutrality by considering the political position of the government in power. The most recent such case was its audits on Lee’s four-river development projects, for which it came up with different outcomes it found few problems when it conducted the audit during the Lee administration, but reversed its position when it reexamined the projects after Lee left office. Lee and his aides say that the ongoing investigation into the resources development projects is politically motivated by Park, his former rival in the conservative ruling party.
For all the possibility of political considerations, however, the BAI findings provide a big cause for concern all the more because a huge sum of additional money as much as 34.3 trillion won is needed to sustain the remaining projects.
This means that some of the dam- age can still be prevented. What’s urgent is a thorough review of all the projects and determining the fate of each project keeping the viable ones and abandoning the rest.
This being the case, it is outrageous that the special parliamentary investigation committee has not held a single hearing, spending the past 100 days merely quarrelling over who should take the witness stand. It is a little relief that on Tuesday, which was its last day, the committee agreed to extend its operation until May 2.
The BAI report pointing to the possibility of more taxpayers money being wasted tell us to move quickly. The National Assembly, BAI and the prosecution share the responsibility of finding out what went wrong with the projects and devising ways to minimize the loss. This is an editorial published by The Korea Herald on April 8.