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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 12)

All News 07:11 December 12, 2018

Governor on the ropes
Lee Jae-myung faces uncertain political future

The prosecution indicted Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung Tuesday on allegations of abuse of power and violation of the election law while campaigning for the governorship.

The Suwon District Prosecutors' Office indicted Lee without physical detention. Since taking office as Gyeonggi governor, he has been unable to focus on his duties as he has faced investigations into a wide range of allegations about him and his family. Lee has been suspected of abusing his power in 2012 while serving as Seongnam mayor to commit his late older brother to a psychiatric institution against his will, and lying about it during the June 13 local election campaign. In addition, he has been accused of spreading false information about a development project in Seongnam in violation of the election law.

He has also been suspected of engaging in an extramarital affair with a former film star and having ties to organized crime. But prosecutors determined there was not enough evidence to press charges against him on these. Also owing to lack of sufficient evidence, prosecutors decided not to indict Lee's wife Kim Hye-kyung, who has faced allegations that she spread malicious comments about her husband's political rivals, including President Moon Jae-in, on Twitter.

Lee formerly served as mayor of Seongnam before winning the race for Gyeonggi governor as a candidate of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) in the June local elections. The victory seemed to consolidate his status as a star politician and a possible frontrunner of the ruling party in the next presidential election. He had received media attention for initiating some timely policies such as subsidies for young adults while serving as Seongnam mayor. But his leadership has been damaged significantly after a wide range of allegations that fueled public distrust about his ethics and character.

The controversy regarding the Gyeonggi governor has triggered calls for the DPK to expel him from the party. During a press conference on the same day as the prosecution's announcement to indict him, Lee showed no intention of leaving the party, saying he was a "proud member." If he is ultimately found guilty in court, he could lose his post as governor. His political future now remains uncertain.

Lee said he would do his best not to cause any more trouble for the DPK, but his scandal has negatively affected the people's views of Moon and the ruling party. Moon's job approval rating dropped to 48.7 percent in a Realmeter survey conducted from Nov. 26 to 30, the lowest since the onset of his administration in May 2017.

Lee's credibility as a politician has been severely hampered in the wake of the series of distasteful allegations. He should fully cooperate with the court proceedings and deliver only a truthful account of his doings. That is the least he can do for the people who voted for him.

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