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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 11)

All News 07:04 November 11, 2022

Fast and balanced investigation is key

Details of the suspicions the prosecution has raised over close aides of Democratic Party (DP) Chair Lee Jae-myung after it indicted Kim Yong, deputy head of a DP think tank, on charges of receiving illegal campaign funds before the DP's primary last year are shocking. Kim was suspected of receiving 847 million won ($613,768) from Yoo Dong-kyu, a former senior official at the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC), to help Lee Jae-myung — Seongnam mayor at the time and Gyeonggi governor later — to win the primary race to get elected as presidential candidate of the DP.

This time, additional suspicions arose over Jeong Jin-sang — a vice chief of staff to Lee — who allegedly received a bribe from stakeholders in the Daejang-dong development project approved by Lee when he was Seongnam mayor. Prosecutors think that Jeong and Kim, the head of the DP think tank now under arrest, conspired with the stakeholders to take a whopping 70 billion won from an expected profit from the redevelopment. The prosecution found that Kim Man-bae, the largest stakeholder in the development project, promised to give 42.8 billion won after tax to Jeong and Kim, the two confidantes of DP chair Lee, who later was presidential candidate.

The details of circumstantial evidence are concrete. After Kim, Jeong and Yoo, the three aides of Lee, formed brotherly ties with Kim Man-bae — the largest stakeholder — in 2014, they agreed to share the profit among themselves. After being selected as the developer, Kim Man-bae offered to the three aides to use their "30 percent share," according to the prosecution. In reaction, Jeong, the vice chief of staff to the DP chair, compared the money to an asset "preserved in a reservoir." The prosecution defined Lee and Jeong, in particular, as a "political community."

In response, DP Chair Lee dismissed the prosecution's accusation "a preposterous fiction." Given an arrest warrant issued for Kim, the deputy head of the think tank, prosecutors may have obtained evidence strong enough to indict Jeong, the vice chief of staff to Lee, pretty soon.

Chairman Lee's aides face a number of strong suspicions, but prosecutors must prove them true through thorough investigation. As their investigation targets the head of DP, a majority party in the legislature, they will lose public trust if they fail to prove their criminality. The DP immediately started to counterattack the prosecution, citing errors in the arrest warrant.

The prosecution must seriously consider the question of fairness in its investigations. For instance, it has been dragging its feet on probing a suspicious case involving a former special prosecutor. It must look into all the suspicions surrounding the Lee clan.

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