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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 22)

Politics 07:14 May 22, 2020

Beware the boomerang

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) is methodically moving to reinvent the political life of former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, 76, who was sentenced to jail for two years for receiving money from the former CEO of a construction company in 2007 in return for favors. If the DP really attempts to rehabilitate such a convict, that's a grave challenge to respect for the rule of law. Han, who served as prime minister in the Roh Moo-hyun administration (2003-2008), was an iconic figure representing the liberal camp.

She was indicted, convicted and served a jail term after the Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling against her. She was indicted without detention in July 2010 on charges of taking 900 million won ($731,400) from Han Man-ho, the CEO, who died after serving a prison term in 2018.

In the first trial, the former prime minister was found not guilty thanks to the CEO's reversal of an earlier statement on the delivery of the money. But the appellate court sentenced her to two years in jail and fined her 830 million won after it accepted various pieces of evidence presented by prosecutors, including a memorandum Han wrote in prison. The Supreme Court upheld the ruling despite a split opinion among justices over 600 million won of the alleged payment. For the remaining 300 million won, the 13 justices unanimously handed down a guilty verdict. It was also found that she gave a 100 million won check to her brother for house rent.

When a pro-government internet media outlet obtained Han's memorandum last week, the ruling party swiftly moved. DP floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon defined the former prime minister as a "victim of the prosecution's coercive investigation and the court's abuse of power." Rep. Park Joo-min, a senior member of the DP, went a step further. "When a separate law enforcement body aimed at probing high government officials, including prosecutors and judges, is established, it can revisit the case," he said. It looks as if the ruling camp is engrossed with resurrecting the politically-dead former prime minister.

If legal requirements are met, she can call for a retrial. However, as the courts already reached a conclusion on the memorandum, they won't accept the request. Our criminal procedure act allows a retrial only when there is evidence of fabrication of evidence and perjury. Jo jae-yeon, head of the National Court Administration, expressed concerns about "raising doubts just because defendants oppose the court's rulings." The DP should listen to his words and must not abuse its super majority status in the National Assembly. If the party goes too far, its actions will boomerang.
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