(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 12)

The results of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission's investigation of the National Election Commission (NEC) show why the election management body has steadfastly refused a probe from outside. According to the investigation, 58 out of the 384 "career staffers" hired over the past seven years were recruited for dubious reasons. The ratio of illegitimate hiring is 15.1 percent. After the findings, the anti-corruption commission accused 28 of them of violating the Public Service Act.

The anti-corruption body has discovered that 31 of the recruits were switched to the permanent payroll without taking the required exam or having an interview with the management of the NEC. Three were elevated to become fifth-grade civil servants even without following any of the required procedures. Some of them became seventh, eighth or ninth-grade civil servants after applying for regular positions after reading its internal bulletin board. This is impossible without close connections, like their fathers working at the NEC. That's not all. Even 13 who were older than 35 — the cap — were hired. In 26 cases, employees of the NEC replaced outside interviewers to scrutinize qualifications of the applicants.

Nevertheless, the NEC hasn't conducted an internal audit of personnel affairs in the last seven years. After a JoongAng Ilbo report raised suspicions about the favoritism of the secretary general and his deputy secretary over the strange recruitment of their children, the NEC requested the police to investigate only four such cases. The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) launched an inspection of the NEC, but it refused the inspection, citing its "independent status as a Constitutional body." After being pressured by public opinion, the NEC stepped back and accepted a probe by the BAI. Yet the NEC rejected most of the requests for data submission from the anti-corruption commission. As only 41.1 percent of the 3,000 NEC employees agreed to the submission of related data, it could be just the tip of the iceberg.

NEC Commissioner No Tae-ak, who also serves as a justice in the Supreme Court, and members of the commission must take responsibility. If the next parliamentary elections are administered by such degraded officials, who would believe the results of the election? The NEC is a mammoth organization with 249 regional offices across the country. Even lawmakers kowtow to the mighty body.

A critical lack of external audits offers fertile ground for corruption and irregularities. The NEC should be strictly audited by external oversight bodies like the BAI and be headed by a standing commissioner, not a part-timer. The time has come to reform the election management body before it's too late.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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