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(EDITORIAL from Korea Joongang Daily on Sept. 11)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:02 September 11, 2023

Don't hide behind the 'no arrest' privilege

Politicians' strongest weapon could be their sincerity. But the way the Democratic Party (DP) leader responds to the prosecution's investigation is totally devoid of the virtue, not to mention the lack of self-sacrifice. Instead, Rep. Lee Jae-myung — the DP head and former presidential candidate — seems to be an expert in avoiding his own judicial risks by taking advantage of his chairman post and legal knowledge. Lee's past reaction to prosecutorial probes perfectly frames him as an unrivaled "legal technician," not a leader of the majority party.

Lee has been arraigned by the prosecution four times for questioning, including on his apparent involvement in two suspicious redevelopment projects and the mysterious remittance of $8 million to North Korea through a private company. But he exercised the right to remain silent despite his earlier pledge to "proudly receive" investigations. The Suwon District Prosecutors' Office summoned him on Aug. 30, but he didn't appear. The prosecution again requested he appear on Sept. 4, but he didn't, citing the need to attend the opening of the first plenary session of the National Assembly on Monday.

Earlier, the DP drew strong criticism by passing a revision to end the ad hoc session by Aug. 25 — six days faster than the normal schedule — only to help its boss avoid a vote on a legislative endorsement of the request for his arrest warrant during a plenary session. No one would dare to fix the date for their arraignment on their own.

Then all of a sudden, Lee declared a nonsensical hunger strike from Aug. 31 to fight against a "republic of prosecutors" led by former prosecutor-turned-president Yoon Suk Yeol, so that he can lead a "national resistance" against the conervative president. But Lee cannot avoid the suspicion that he only wants to thwart the prosecution's investigation by using whatever means available. After public criticism deepened, the party leader appeared before the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office on Saturday. But again, he kept mum on all suspicions.

In a speech at the National Assembly back in June, Lee vowed to give up lawmakers' privilege to avoid being arrested while a legislative session is underway. But he didn't appear before the prosecution's office in August. Instead, he one-sidedly notified the prosecution of the date for his appearance and then kicked off an absurd hunger strike to battle against the "tyranny of the government." We urge Lee to proudly comply with the prosecution's investigation if he is really innocent. If the DP is not his privatized party, it must pass urgent bills for people's livelihood instead of trying to defend its boss only to get nominations for next year's parliamentary elections.

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