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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 9)

All News 06:57 November 09, 2022

Solid evidence matters

The prosecution has basically singled out Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Jae-myung as the main suspect in the scandalous Daejang-dong development project he approved as Seongnam mayor in the 2010s. Prosecutors reached their conclusion after investigating and charging Kim Yong — a confidante of the DP chair and deputy head of a DP think tank — for allegedly taking bribes from stakeholders in the massive development project, which eventually made their way back to Lee's presidential campaign.

Kim is accused of taking 847 million won ($612,000) between April and August, 2021. Kim denies all accusations. The prosecution continues investigations mostly based on testimony by Yoo Dong-kyu, a senior official in the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC), lawyer Nam Wook, who designed and took part in the development project, and another lawyer involved in the project. The DP criticizes the prosecution for "political retaliation," but statements by the suspects are concrete.

Prosecutors have discovered that the money was transferred from lawyer Nam to another lawyer to Yoo to Kim, the head of the DP think tank. Their testimonies are coherent as seen in their consistent records of the process of the money being delivered to Kim. Above all, Yoo, the senior official at the SDC, said he was told by lawyer Nam that the money was to be used as campaign funds for Lee to win the DP primary race last year for the presidential election in May.

Even more powerful testimony came during a court trial. Lawyer Nam said he heard from Kim Man-bae — the largest stakeholder in the development project — that his share of expected profit was only 12.5 percent, Nam's share was 25 percent, and the rest was the mayor's. Whether Kim Man-bae really said that is not known yet, but if that is true, the prosecution's indictment of Kim Yong, the close aide of Lee Jae-myung, could be headed to a full-fledged investigation into Lee on charges of bribery.

Given past investigations into illegal campaign funds in the 2000s, what counts most is validity of testimony by stakeholders and clear evidence. If the prosecution probes the case toward a pre-set conclusion, it will be attacked for a politically-motivated investigation.

Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok and prosecutors should know this. If pieces of evidence pointing in an opposite direction are found, the prosecution must respect those facts. Prosecutors must investigate only based on solid evidence if it really does not want to repeat shameful practices of the past.

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