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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Oct. 20)

All News 07:14 October 20, 2021

A weird investigation

In the National Assembly's audit of the Gyeonggi provincial government on Monday, opposition lawmakers vehemently attacked the prosecution for its half-baked investigation into the grave Daejang-dong land development scandal. Appearing at the session for the first time since taking the helm of the top law enforcement agency last year, Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo repeatedly said prosecutors are doing their best to probe the case. But his remarks fell way short of convincing opposition lawmakers.

After it turned out that Kim had served as a counsel for Seongnam City before his appointment as the top prosecutor, many criticized him for having any responsibility for the case. (Seongnam is the city where the suspicious land development project was approved by Gyeonggi Governor Lee Jae-myung, now presidential candidate for the ruling party, when he was the mayor.) Moreover, it turned out that a separate case involving the governor of suspicion of forcing others to pay his legal fees was transferred to the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, likely because the Suwon District Office is headed by a prosecutor who graduated from the same law school as Lee.

Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo said the decision was made in consideration of the efficiency of the investigation and a jurisdictional issue. But the transfer of the volatile case strongly suggests violation of the principle of a neutral investigation.

That's not all. A senior prosecutor in charge of investigating the Daejang-dong scandal had to return to his original post at another district prosecutors' office after he called for more investigation before requesting an arrest warrant for Kim Man-bae, a figure at the center of the scandal. The arrest warrant was eventually rejected by a court. Prosecutors raided Seongnam City Hall to collect related evidence but excluded its mayor's office and secretaries' offices.

The dichotomy between the police and the prosecution also dumfounds us. While the police were waiting for the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office to issue a warrant for search and seizure for Yoo Dong-gyu, a former acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation, to obtain his smartphone, the Central District Prosecutors' Office separately took action and got the phone.

The investigation of the scandal looks weird because the prosecution only deepens suspicions. Now that lawyer Nam Wook, another stakeholder in the development project, has returned to Korea, the prosecution must get to the bottom of suspicions by obtaining tangible evidence through tracking financial transactions. The public deserves no less.
(END)

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