Lawmakers wary of whistleblowers
Lawmakers often say hiring people they don’t know well as their staff is a high-stakes poker game. This is because aides can make, or at the same time break, their boss’ political career as they have access to all information, including possible illegalities.
As such, politicians will be in deep trouble if they blow the whistle on their murky activities.
There have been several cases of legislative aides turning their backs on their employers when their demands were not met, and disclosing secrets to ruin their political careers.
On Tuesday, an aide to a senior ruling Saenuri Party lawmaker told The Korea Times that the atmosphere at the National Assembly is tense and depressing after the recent money-for-candidacy scandal, which was initially disclosed by a driver of Rep. Hyun Young-hee.
Hyun allegedly gave 300 million won to Hyun Ki-hwan, a member of the Saenuri Party nomination committee, in return for being selected as a proportional representation candidate ahead of the April 11 National Assembly elections.
“These days, people here are talking a lot about the case. Staffers who manage lawmakers’ schedules know nearly everything about their boss. So I am not surprised at the recent whistle-blowing,” he said asking for anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
Now, he said, lawmakers are leery of their aides as they are afraid they could become the next victim if their staff discloses something illicit, thus endangering their political life.
To prevent leaks, the aide said, lawmakers tend to opt for assistants recommended by fellow lawmakers or those they can trust.
Multiple cases show that money and jobs are the two main drivers to whistle-blowing in the parliament.
Jeong Dong-geun, Rep. Hyun’s aide who ranks lowest in the chain of command in the lawmaker’s office, reportedly asked for a higher position and threatened to disclose a corruption case if his demand was refused.
Jeong followed through with his threat as his request was not met.
President Lee Myung-bak had a similar experience in the 1990s when he served as a lawmaker of the then ruling party. In 1998, he resigned from his parliamentary post after an aide disclosed his violations of the Election Law.
Speaking at a news conference in 1997, Kim Yoo-chan, then Lee’s legislative aide, claimed that his boss violated the Election Law by filing false reports on his campaign funds. Kim said when the Lee camp submitted its campaign accounts to the election watchdog some 700 million won went unreported.
Kim also claimed that he was offered 125 million won in return for making a false statement in court.
He reportedly received nearly 20 times that figure from the Lee camp after threatening to disclose the President’s alleged secrets and made new claims when his first demands for more money were not accepted.
The bad blood between Lee and Kim was rekindled nearly ten years later.
In early 2007, when Lee was preparing for his presidential bid, Kim twice held press conferences to disclose suspicions to discredit his former employer. He later published a book titled “A Report on Lee Myung-bak,” ahead of the election, detailing his experiences of Lee and his character.
In 2008, Kim was jailed for defamation.