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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Dec. 2)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:10 December 02, 2022

Unbiased -- and balanced -- investigation matters

The prosecution's investigation into the Daejang-dong development scandal allegedly involving Democratic Party (DP) Chair Lee Jae-myung is taking a strange turn after circumstantial evidence suggests that they intentionally tried to scale back the scope of their probe of Lee before the DP's primary last year in which Lee ran to be the party's presidential candidate. The evidence the prosecution under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration has collected is quite clear and concrete.

In his testimony in court, Nam Wook — a stakeholder in the suspicious development project approved by Lee when he was Seongnam mayor — said that prosecutors last year promised him that they would arrest only four suspects, excluding Nam, before he returned to Korea from the U.S. in October last year. (That kind of plea bargain is illegal in criminal cases here). The four refers to Yoo Dong-gyu, former planning director of the Seongnam Development Corporation, Kim Man-bae, the largest stakeholder in the project, Choi Yoon-gil, former Seongnam City Council chair, and another city official.

If the testimony is true, that means the prosecution attempted to push its investigation to a certain direction in advance. Prosecutors denied that they made such an offer to Nam. But would Nam, a lawyer, really tell a lie in the court after taking the oath?

The investigation team at the time also did not care about Nam's remark that several stakeholders in the project raised funds to help Lee get reelected as mayor in the local elections in the mid-2010s. The new investigation team under the Yoon administration has obtained a document backing the statement by Nam. The amount of money Nam said he had delivered to Lee's campaign — 4.25 billion won ($3.3 million) — is consistent with his earlier statement. If so, the new investigation team must get to the bottom of the case.

The Supreme Prosecutors' Office has ordered the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office to reinvestigate a mysterious case involving former justice minister Choo Mi-ae's son over the special treatment he allegedly received for medical treatment while on military duty. Prosecutors at the time concluded that none of people involved in the suspicious episode committed any wrong. Choo strongly clashed with Yoon, prosecutor general at the time, over the prosecution's investigation of former justice minister Cho Kuk over many allegations against him. That's why the DP attacks the Yoon administration for launching a reinvestigation for political retaliation.

The two cases sound alarms over the way the prosecution behaves. The time has come for political prosecutors to disappear in this country. Current Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok pledged to uphold evidence and legal principles in executing laws without any exception. We hope he keeps the promise.

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