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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 17)

Politics 06:58 September 17, 2021

Digging into suspicions over Lee

Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung agreed to an investigation into a suspicious development project in Daejang-dong, Seongnam City in 2015 when he was the mayor. Lee, a frontrunner in the ruling Democratic Party (DP) primary for the presidential election in March, may have decided to accept a probe after weighing the impact of the case on the ongoing primary.

Suspicions are deepening over a hefty amount (57.7 billion won, or $49.2 million) of the dividends an unknown developer received from the large construction project after the developer was designated as a preferred bidder just a day after it presented a development plan to the provincial government after setting up a consortium.

Another suspicion hovers around the owner of the developer — a former journalist covering legal affairs — who has a 100 percent stake. Ahead of the development, the owner of the developer, surnamed Kim, interviewed Lee, who was mayor of Seongnam at the time. During the interview, the mayor expressed his ambition to become a governor and the president.

It also turned out that the developer hired a daughter of a former special prosecutor and a son of an opposition lawmaker. It is unusual for an obscure firm to employ offspring of influential figures. Kim, the developer, is keeping mum about all suspicions. But even government officials and DP lawmakers harbor suspicions about the developer. Former Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, a rival of the governor in the primary, stresses the need to get to the bottom of the mystery.

As the opposition People Power Party (PPP) and the DP demand an investigation of the case — and Lee volunteered to be probed — law enforcement agencies must not drag their feet. While the PPP is demanding the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) handle the case, a former senior prosecutor underscored the need for the prosecution to look into it, citing all the complexities involved.

After controversy arose over the government's effort to investigate former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over his alleged role in trying to help the PPP win the April 15 parliamentary elections last year, Justice Minister Park Beom-gye cited the need to "find the truth quickly." He brushed off concerns about why the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, the CIO and the Central District Prosecutors' Office were jointly probing Yoon, a frontrunner among candidates in the next presidential election. The government must apply the same standards to Gov. Lee's case. If Justice Minister Park dilly-dallies, the ministry cannot avoid criticism for obviously siding with the ruling party.
(END)

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