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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 5)

All News 06:59 September 05, 2022

Comply with summons
: DPK leader should tell truth about alleged lies

Rep. Lee Jae-myung, new leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), should comply with a summons issued by the prosecution as part of efforts to shed light on allegations that he lied during the presidential campaign. He has no reason to refuse to cooperate in confirming whether the allegations are true or not. If he snubs the summons without sufficient reason, he may face a public backlash for his attempt to disregard the country's criminal justice system.

On Thursday, the prosecution requested that Lee, who was newly elected chairman of the liberal opposition party on Aug. 28, appear for questioning Tuesday. Immediately he and his party strongly protested the summons, denouncing the investigation as "political retaliation" and "oppression against the opposition party." It could be understandable that Lee and the DPK have shown angry reactions to the summons because the probe is targeting the former presidential candidate. Yet it is absurd to claim that the investigation is politically charged.

For starters, it is necessary to recognize that Lee has been under investigation over allegations that he violated the election law in connection with a scandal surrounding a land development project in Baekhyeon-dong in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province. During a National Assembly inspection last October, Lee, then the DPK presidential candidate, denied allegations that the Seongnam city government gave special treatment to a private developer, which carried out the project between 2015 and 2016 when he was mayor of the city.

Lee even claimed that special treatment was given to the developer at the request -- even under the threat -- of the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport. However, an investigation by the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) found the claim to be false. He is also suspected of lying about another development project in Seongnam's Daejang-dong, which has also raised allegations that the municipal authorities improperly allowed an asset management firm to reap undue profits from the project. In a media interview in December, Lee said that he did not know Kim Moon-ki, then an official of the city-run Seongnam Development Corp., who handled the Daejang-dong project. But this was found to be false when a civic group released photos showing that Lee and Kim made an overseas trip together.

It is regrettable to see Lee describing the summons as an "inappropriate" attempt to find fault with him. It is also unreasonable for DPK spokesperson Rep. Park Sung-joon to argue that the prosecution's move is clear suppression of the opposition party and political retaliation. Lee and his party should realize that their remarks could be an affront to the law enforcement process. A violation of the election law is a clear threat to democracy. Any violators should be subject to harsh punishment. Political bigwigs such as Lee should not be exempted from the principle that all are equal before the law.

Lee has come under criticism for becoming a lawmaker and then the DPK leader after losing the March 9 presidential election to Yoon Suk-yeol in order to protect himself from a set of corruption allegations. Now he should tell the truth about not only the election law violation allegations, but also all the corruption allegations. Otherwise, his cannot restore the public's trust in him or his party.

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