Renovate the NEC fast

2023. 6. 1. 20:28
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The only solution is a colossal revamp of the National Election Commission.

The National Election Commission (NEC) has accepted an investigation of four of its members, including Secretary General Park Chan-jin, over their favors to their children when they applied to work at the independent body, as well as a probe of all its members by the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission to find the truth. The NEC also decided to open the post of secretary general to outsiders instead of promoting insiders to the position as in the past. The NEC also plans to set up an external audit committee. Could that commission really renovate itself?

After the JoongAng Ilbo last month exposed the special favors to their children, the NEC refuted the report, insisting on the fair recruitment procedure according to the law. But after suspicious members increased to 11, the commission stepped back and accepted an external investigation. Even after the National Intelligence Service (NIS) recommended an overhaul of the NEC’s security system after discovering signs of hacking from North Korea, the commission rejected the demand, citing its independence as a Constitutional body. Then, the NEC accepted an internal security overhaul after a follow-up report by the newspaper.

A fundamental problem is a lack of its neutrality. For instance, a former aide to previous president Moon Jae-in’s campaign became a standing member of the commission. Political pundits attribute the NEC’s refusal to accept the request for an internal security check from the NIS to its need to read the lips of then-governing Democratic Party. If such a body vulnerable to political pressure is not embroiled in election fraud, that will be rather strange.

The NEC is at a crossroads. It must accept the People Power Party’s demand for a legislative probe and strictly punish its members if they really did wrong, not to mention accepting investigations by law enforcement authorities. The NEC must fill the vacant seat of the secretary general fast with outsiders armed with competence and morality. Some of its members are dragging their feet by demanding the establishment of an internal personnel affairs committee. With the next parliamentary elections just 10 months away, it is a laid back reaction. Nine members of the commission must recruit a new general secretary as quickly as possible so as not to cause any problems for the nationwide election.

The time has come to change the 60-year structure of the commission free from any checks from outside. Why should the Chief Justice picked by the president appoint the head of the NEC from among justices in the Supreme Court? Moreover, the commissioner cannot prevent the secretary general from abusing power, as the commissioner also serves as a justice in the top court. The only solution is a colossal revamp of the commission.

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