The Lee Myung-bak administration, after concluding through an investigation that North Korea was responsible for the sinking of the Cheonan, has been implementing ultra-hardline measures against the country, but the controversy over the Cheonan investigation findings continues unabated both within and outside of South Korea. Yesterday, the five opposition parties, eighty-six civic and social organizations, and representatives of the religious sector held an emergency meeting to highlight the necessity of verifying the findings. China has also held back from any assessment, calling the case “very complicated.”
It stands to reason that the administration’s investigation findings have been called into question. The administration maintained exclusive control over information during the investigation process. Then, without completing necessary steps for the report, the administration announced its findings in time for the beginning of the formal regional election campaign. The fact that the investigation was led by the very military leadership who would be subject to reprimand created its own credibility issues. As of now, almost none of the related data has been disclosed.
From the start, it has been impossible for the National Assembly to verify the Lee administration’s announcement. The biggest step taken by the administration was to declare an hour prior to the announcement on May 20 that it would explain the briefing’s content to the chairman of each party. After a long period of sitting idle, the National Assembly’s special Cheonan investigation committee finally held its first meeting a few days ago, and even then only ten pages of data were provided.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who visited South Korea two days ago, said that China would better understand the situation if it read the 400-page Cheonan report, but not a single lawmaker in the National Assembly has laid eyes on this report. If a report provided to a country overseas is not presented to the National Assembly, this demonstrates an unbelievable disregard for the legislature and people of South Korea. Nevertheless, Defense Minister Kim Tae-young appeared to be reprimanding that same legislature and people for not trusting the investigation findings, the height of poor reasoning.
It is not too late. The National Assembly special committee should be put into active operation to thoroughly examine the administration’s findings. There are quite a number of questions that need to be addressed, among them the condition of the Cheonan’s gas turbine room, which was only salvaged the day before the announcement. An examination at the National Assembly level is also essential for enhancing the credibility of the administration’s findings. Examination of the government’s actions and from that forming a social consensus is the National Assembly’s proper duty.
The ruling Grand National Party (GNP) is currently calling for the adoption of a resolution in the National Assembly for sanctions against North Korea, but their sequence is completely out of order. Discussing the resolution can wait until the findings have been examined and the questions have been fully answered.
It is also necessary to form an international investigation team with the participation of both North Korea and South Korea in addition to the U.S., China and Russia. The South Korean government loses credibility when it conducts an investigation without including relevant parties and then instructs everyone to simply follow along. A diplomatic battle like we are seeing now, separating the parties involved into competing sides, will not solve the problem. It will only succeed in furthering the instability of the political situation on the Korean Peninsula.
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