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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 5)

All News 06:45 October 05, 2021

Arrogance and sophistry

Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung, the presidential frontrunner of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), expressed regret Monday over the scandal that led to the detention of Yoo Dong-gyu, former senior official at the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC), for his alleged involvement in a controversial development project in Seongnam city when Lee was mayor. Lee said it was very regrettable that he "could not return all profits from the development project to Seongnam citizens." His apology was the first since the scandal erupted last month over alleged collusion between the city government and developers.

But many questions linger about Lee's sincerity. He simply mentioned his failure as mayor to oversee as many as 3,000 civil servants and 1,500 employees under the city government. His remarks suggested that Yoo was just one of them. Even though Yoo was actually the second highest-ranking official of the Seongnam Facilities Management Corporation, a predecessor of the SDC, Lee described him as a mere "managing staffer."

In a leap of logic, Lee asked if a head of state should resign just because a member of a public corporation took a bribe or did something wrong. Lee went so far as to claim that just because Alfred Nobel invented dynamite doesn't mean he encouraged al Qaeda to plot the 9/11 attacks. That's sheer sophistry. Plenty of evidence shows that Yoo served as a most faithful servant of the city government under Lee.

The governor once said he designed the development project himself, but back-pedalled to say he only tried to retrieve profits from the project for citizens and to ensure that private companies did not take them all. Lee also attributed the scandal to the limits of the system and the opposition People Power Party.

Lee maintains double standards on the investigations into the scandal. Though he urged the prosecution to get to the bottom of the case, he is reluctant to cooperate. Instead, Lee methodically hampers the probe. For instance, the DP refused to summon related witnesses to the National Assembly for questioning and the Gyeonggi provincial government and the city still have not submitted related data to prosecutors. That constitutes a serious abuse of power by the governor.

Another problem is that the governor's behavior could provide some guidelines to prosecutors in their investigations — with less than a week left until he is elected presidential candidate of the DP. Such concerns can be backed by a number of pro-government prosecutors in the Central District Prosecutors' Office that handles the case. The prosecution intentionally did not obtain evidence such as Yoo's smartphone when it raided his apartment, for example.

The scandal has crossed a point of no return. If the prosecution chooses to approach the case passively, an investigation by a special prosecutor is unavoidable. In a recent survey, 63.9 percent of the people wanted an independent counsel to probe the case while only 26.5 percent didn't.

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