A Misguided Bid to Rewrite History

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A Misguided Bid to Rewrite History

The Seoul District Prosecutor''s Office has indicted Rep. Chung Hyung-keun of the Grand National Party on suspicion of defamation of character, announcing that ":it is not true that President Kim Dae-jung received $10,000 in operational funds from North Korea via Rep. Suh Kyung-won." Thus, shockingly, the findings of the 1989 investigation of Mr. Suh''s secret visit to the North are overturned by the prosecution itself.

We do not know if President Kim actually received $10,000 from Mr. Suh, but the case has already been through due process and was closed long ago. Subsequently the people have given their evaluation of Kim Dae-jung''s character by electing him president of the Republic of Korea. The announcement after all this time that the president did not receive the alleged $10,000 raises some legal questions. The Prosecutor''s Office claims that since the case was handled under the Foreign Exchange Control Law rather than the National Security Law, Mr. Chung''s use of the term communist operational funds when he knew, under the Foreign Exchange Control Law, no such money was involved constitutes false accusation and slander. But if that is so, the issue of whether $10,000 actually changed hands has nothing whatsoever to do with this case. Why then was the need felt to overturn the previous conclusion?

The stability of the legal system and consistency in prosecuting cases are threatened when the prosecutors can with a flick of the hand reverse a conclusion arrived at after a detailed investigation. Suh Kyung-won''s secret visit to the North was thoroughly scrutinized amid intense public attention at the time. Because the incident involved the then-president of the opposition party, we may assume that its legal implications were carefully looked into. We are concerned about how much confidence prosecutors will be able to muster in their investigations of future political cases. And how do we know that when the government changes hands again we won''t have yet more decisions reversed where the original conclusion did not please those now in power? The prosecutors invite misunderstanding by turning a simple case of defamation into an exoneration of the president. Far from helping anyone, the prosecutors are undermining their own position.
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