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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Sept. 28)

All News 07:14 September 28, 2021

A pie that gets bigger

The favoritism scandal involving a fledgling asset management company called Hwacheon Daeyu which pocketed billions of won after joining a 1.15 trillion won ($981 million) urban development project in Daejang-dong in Seongnam under then-mayor Lee Jae-myung and now a leading presidential candidate of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) is snowballing. Beneficiaries included senior judges and prosecutors who had advised the company founded by a former journalist specializing in judiciary affairs. How they were recruited with elaborate compensation is beyond comprehension.

Rep. Kwak Sang-do of the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) resigned on Sunday over the controversy of his son who had been compensated handsomely with severance pay of over $4 million. Rep. Kwak earlier claimed his son who joined the company upon graduating received monthly pay of 2.5 million won. But when he learned his son received the severance pay, he said his son would have been compensated because the company earned that much. He attacked Lee, then mayor, of "enabling the structure for the company to earn that much." But it was Kwak who introduced his son to the company. His deed cannot be excused merely through his resignation.

Former justice Kwon Soon-il promised he would not disappoint public expectations of a justice after retirement. But while lecturing on ethics of judiciary professionals at a law school, he pocketed 15 million won monthly for 10 months in consulting fees even without registering as a lawyer. He claims he does not know where Hwacheon Daeyu invested. But he had been among the judges at the Supreme Court on the two cases involving Daejang-dong. One was a non-guilty verdict on the defamation case against former mayor Lee.

That's not all. When a lawyer surnamed Nam was indicted for illegal lobbying activities related to the Daejang-dong project, then chief prosecutor Kang Chan-woo and Nam's lawyer Park Young-soo, former special prosecutor, advised Hwacheon Daeyu. How could a suspect, investigating prosecutor and lawyer get involved in the same company related to a semi-public project?

The essence of the scandal is simple. The project profited big by buying the land cheaply and selling at a high price. How the project was designed to profit a precious few must be thoroughly investigated. Lee cannot be an exception. Lee, current Gyeonggi Governor, sneered that Kwak had run out luck as he was kicked out of the PPP. But Lee is the person who licensed the project. He cannot be exempt from liability.

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