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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on June 20)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:09 June 20, 2022

'Political revenge' claim
: DPK should stop blocking corruption probes

Prosecutors and police are stepping up their investigations into corruption and power abuse scandals involving the previous administration. Such investigations are necessary to get to the bottom of the scandals and bring to justice those responsible for law violations. They are also crucial to upholding the rule of law and defending democracy.

But the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has denounced the probes as being politically motivated. It has also accused the new Yoon Suk-yeol administration of targeting key members of the Moon Jae-in government. In a nutshell, the DPK has gone as far as to frame the investigations as constituting "political revenge."

The DPK cannot avoid criticism for trying to block the investigations to protect its members and former government officials. It should realize that the Moon administration had already prevented investigators from digging up the dirt on them by appointing pro-government figures to key posts in the prosecution. It is wrong to launch political offensives against the incumbent government to save law-breaking officials and politicians from criminal charges.

The liberal opposition party's move came after the police started an investigation into a corruption scandal surrounding a land development project in Baekhyeon-dong, Seongnam City, south of Seoul. On Thursday, investigators searched the municipal building to seize evidence which could prove suspicions that Lee Jae-myung, former Seongnam mayor, was deeply involved in the scandal.

Lee, also former Gyeonggi Province governor and DPK presidential candidate, has also been dogged by allegations that he was involved in a similar scandal related to another lucrative land development project in Daejang-dong, Seongnam City. The scandal emerged as a hot issue in the lead-up to the March 9 presidential election in which he lost to Yoon, the candidate of the then conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP).

Lee then won the June 1 parliamentary by-election in a constituency in Incheon, west of Seoul. His election touched off a controversy as he apparently sought a National Assembly seat to shield himself from any charges from the scandals. During the presidential campaign, Lee promised to come in for a probe by an independent counsel if the prosecution's investigation fails to clear up the allegations. However, it is disappointing to see his party trying to help him avoid any further investigations.

The DPK's offensive also came after the prosecution resumed an investigation into a power abuse case in which former Industry Minister Paik Un-gyu allegedly forced the heads of energy-related state firms to step down because they were against Moon's nuclear phase-out policy. The investigation gained momentum since the Supreme Court upheld a lower court ruling against former Environment Minister Kim Eun-kyung who was sentenced to two years in prison for forcing 13 heads of public organizations affiliated with her ministry to quit their jobs in 2017 and 2018.

Now the DPK should cooperate with the prosecution and the police to reveal the truth behind the corruption and power abuse cases, instead of attempting to cover them up. Otherwise, the party, which is reeling from its defeat in the presidential and local elections, will face a much stronger backlash from the public. President Yoon, for his part, needs to clearly explain why his government should have zero tolerance for such crimes.
(END)

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