Over­seas re­sources re­view ‘ur­gent’ in South Korea

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

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.

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