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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 1)

All News 07:00 April 01, 2022

Reveal truth behind 'blacklist'
: Time to prevent recurrence of power abuse

The prosecution has restarted its investigation into allegations that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy forced the heads of four power plants to resign in September 2017, four months after President Moon Jae-in took office. If the allegations are found true, ministry officials cannot avoid charges of abusing their authority to kick out the CEOs who had been appointed by the previous Park Geun-hye administration.

Last week, investigators of the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office searched the ministry's planning and coordination office as well as its departments handling nuclear energy policy to secure evidence related to the allegations. They also stormed the offices of four utility companies affiliated with state-run Korea Electric Power Corp. (KEPCO).

The move came three years after the Liberty Korea Party (LKP), the predecessor of the current opposition People Power Party (PPP), filed a complaint with the prosecution against the ministry over the matter. The LKP accused the energy ministry of drawing up a "blacklist" of the heads of state enterprises and public institutions who had been appointed by the Park government.

However, the investigation came to a halt because the Moon administration demoted the chief of the district prosecutors' office and other senior prosecutors to prevent them from digging into the case. The government had impeded the probe particularly since the prosecutors' office indicted top officials of the Ministry of Environment on similar charges.

The investigation has now gained momentum since the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against former Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung in January who was sentenced to two years in prison for abusing her ministerial power. Kim was indicted on charges of forcing 13 executives at public institutions affiliated with the environment ministry to step down in 2017 and 2018 because they were appointees of the Park government.

Prosecutors should conduct a thorough investigation into the energy ministry to prove suspicions that former Minister Paik Un-gyu and other officials put pressure on the chiefs of the four power generation plants to resign because they refused to follow President Moon's nuclear phase-out policy.

The so-called "blacklist" case cannot be overlooked because it could constitute a serious crime. Ranking officials of the conservative Park administration were also found guilty of blacklisting progressive artists and cultural figures to exclude them from state support programs. It is dumbfounding to see similar things happening again under the rule of Moon who took power following the impeachment of Park.

The prosecution should leave no stone unturned to lay bare the truth behind the energy ministry's power abuse scandal. It also needs to expand its investigation as other ministries, including the prime minister's office and the finance and education ministries, are facing similar "blacklist" allegations. In addition, it should make efforts to avoid criticism that it has resumed the investigation ― belatedly ― just before the end of the Moon administration in order to curry favor with the incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration. We hope that the next government will prevent the recurrence of this abuse of power.
(END)

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