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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on May 15)

All News 07:25 May 15, 2023

The prosecution must get to the bottom of the case

After the suspicion over Democratic Party (DP) lawmaker Kim Nam-kook's investment in cryptocurrency spread fast, DP leader Lee Jae-myung ordered an internal investigation of the case. But not many citizens were convinced of his sincerity. As it turned out, Rep. Kim left the party on Sunday. The DP immediately declared it would stop the internal probe, saying there's no way to stop his departure from the party.

The majority party has repeatedly let its members leave the party so as to avoid responsibility for a plethora of allegations against them. After forcing out Rep. Min Hyung-bae to pass a controversial bill in 2021 to entirely scrap the prosecution of its investigative powers, the DP allowed two other lawmakers to leave the party after they were suspected of having handed cash envelopes to party members to help Song Young-gil get elected as the new party leader. Even Song has left the party. The DP cannot be excused for the habitual practice whenever the need arises.

By the time Rep. Kim left the party, the internal investigation team reportedly found that he had received free digital coins from cryptocurrency companies. The theory that the DP let the lawmaker leave the party to avoid the uncomfortable truth is quite convincing. The statement from Kim — "I will leave the party just temporarily" — fueled such suspicions.

The DP's party constitution says that its members can be punished for their wrongdoings even after they leave the party.

But the DP suggests that the suspicions related to the lawmaker have been put to rest as he has left the party. When asked by reporters if the party confirmed whether the lawmaker really followed its recommendation to sell the cryptocurrencies he possessed, the DP told reporters to ask the lawmaker directly. The crisis has reached a point where even a senior lawmaker of the party has attacked the DP for not apologizing to the public.

The way DP Chair Lee is behaving is also dubious. After keeping silence for a while, he finally ordered an internal probe of the matter. Rep. Kim served as a key aide to Lee during his presidential campaign last year, launched a fund for his boss, and even led a debate on easing regulations on so-called play-to-win (P2E) games. Many people now can understand why Lee has been dealing with Kim's case so cautiously.

The latest crisis, the Daejang-dong redevelopment scandal, and the cash handout case all symbolize a morality crisis of the DP. The prosecution must get to the bottom of the case. Rep. Kim must ask himself if he still can work as a lawmaker.

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