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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 16)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:13 September 16, 2020

Dereliction of duty

Suspicions over Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's son's extended sick leave during his military service in 2017 and her alleged pressure for special treatment for her son continue provoking public outrage. And yet, the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission's answer Sunday to a question from an opposition lawmaker makes us question the commission's entire raison d'etre. Chairperson Jeon Hyun-heui explained that the justice minister has no relevance to the prosecution's ongoing investigation of her son over the alleged favors. On Sept. 7, the commission sought opinions from the Ministry of Justice and the prosecution about whether the minister really commanded their investigations of her son — and if she had been briefed about the results of the prosecution's probe.

The prosecution denied both allegations. However, the justice ministry blatantly refused to answer. Nevertheless, solely based on answers from the prosecution, the commission rushed to conclude that Justice Minister Choo has no conflict of interest over many allegations against her son. In regard to the prosecution's probe last year into alleged corruption of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his wife over a plethora of charges against them, Pak Un-jong, Jeon's predecessor, mentioned the possibility of conflict of interest over the prosecution's investigations of the couple. Both Pak, a scholar, and Jeon, a former lawmaker, were appointed by President Moon Jae-in, yet showed totally different reactions.

Concerns about current Chairperson Jeon's political background are also deepening. She served as a special advisor to Moon when he was running for president in 2017. When she was appointed head of the commission in June, political commentators called it a typical case of a "parachute appointment."

There is another suspicion. A board member of the commission was an aide to Choo as a lawmaker. Coincidently, the person who made a phone call to Choo's son's unit to help extend his vacation was also one of her aides.

Suspicious decisions by the commission are aplenty. The commission has reached the conclusion that the soldier who first raised questions over Choo's son's suspiciously extended sick leave cannot be considered an "informant for public good" as he "did not report the case to the commission or any law enforcement agencies." We are dumbfounded at such weird logic.

The favors former Justice Minister Cho's daughter allegedly received to get admitted to a prestigious college and the privileges the current justice minister's son allegedly received are both related to fairness. The commission has an obligation to oppose any solicitations and special treatment. If it flip-fops its position because of the powers that be, that's a dereliction of duty. We urge the commission and its current head to grow a conscience.
(END)

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