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(EDITORIAL from The Korea Times on Jan. 21)

All News 09:23 January 21, 2017

Arresting Samsung chief

The special prosecutor's team has vacillated on whether to re-seek an arrest warrant for Samsung Group leader Lee Jae-yong on bribery charges.

It may not be worth the trouble. The court's rejection doesn't mean Lee is clear of the charges ― giving billions of won to Choi Soon-sil at the request of Choi's benefactor, President Park Geun-hye, in return for the government's help in an inter-subsidiary merger that solidified Lee's control of his business empire.

But the team has only until the end of February to finish its job of investigating a wide range of alleged crimes committed by President Park, who has been impeached in a case being deliberated by the Constitutional Court.

So it should move on with its investigation ― allegations involving blacklists of people in the field of culture, illegal beauty treatment for President Park and irregularities in the admission of Choi's daughter, Chung Yoo-ra, into Ewha Womans University as well as money-for-favor deals involving SK, Lotte and others.

Throwing Lee into the slammer could save time and greatly boost the case against Park at once because it could be seen as the court's recognition of the team's claim that Park had extorted Samsung, making her an ultimate influence peddler and Choi a primary partner in the racket. Or so the special prosecutor thought.

That approach has now collapsed after the court's rejection, hurting its credibility.

Now, it should take another approach ― taking things one at a time so as to build the case more solidly without making a big publicity stunt out if it. After all, it can't be overemphasized that its mission is finding out the truth behind the allegations to help the court determine on Park's impeachment.

Other legal ends will be taken up one way or another. One will be definitely about chaebol, including Samsung's new leader, on a garden variety of allegations including Lee's perjury in the National Assembly hearing, embezzlement and breach of trust as well as offering bribes.

Few would object to the need for the collusive connections between power and money to be severed once and for all. It is sad and disappointing to see Samsung, now the world's leading technology firm, still get mired in allegations of old-style corruption, dating back to the 1960s and ‘70s when the country was under the developmental dictatorship, led by Park Chung-hee, the father of the impeached leader. Still, dealing with this should come later.

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