[EDITORIAL] Draft Probe Exploited by PoliticiansThe joint prosecution-military investigation squad that has been looking into allegations of draft dodging by 210 prominent persons has been disbanded after one year. The allegations were first raised last February by a civic group, the South Korea chapter of Transparency International. The squad has since uncovered 327 people guilty of dodging military service, of whom 159 were indicted with detention, 151 were indicted without detention. And while 17 are still wanted by the police, 160 persons were physically reexamined and made to serve the full length of their military service. At the same time, the rate of exemption from military service due to physical disabilities fell from the previous annual average of 7.58 percent to just 3.1 percent. Further, by expanding the investigation, which had been centered in major cities, to the whole country, the prosecution has succeeded in cracking down on rural brokers.
Despite these achievements, the investigation into draft dodging is another failure that has left us with an unpleasant aftertaste. The investigation was overshadowed by political intervention; the list of those to be investigated was handed to prosecutors through the Blue House. The president announced the launch of the probe at the convention inaugurating his newly formed Millennium Democratic Party.
The prosecution also brought suspicion upon itself during the course of its investigation. To begin with, it suddenly announced that it would close the investigation 20 days prior to the general elections while Park No-hang, the most notorious offender, was on the run. The prosecution first decided to exclude the two sons of Lee Hoi-chang, the president of the opposition Grand National Party, from the investigation on grounds they had passed the upper age limit for military service and the statute of limitations had run out. But a few hours later, that decision was reversed. The prosecution can also be blamed for political wrangling over its decision to end its summons and physical reexamination of 66 sons of former and incumbent lawmakers and prominent people before the general elections. The investigations into politicians turned out to be almost all for show, and ended with only one person being indicted without detention.
The prosecution's investigation helped only politicians who wanted to make use of national emotion, which is tough on draft-dodgers. It is deplorable that the prosecution, at the heart of state power, is still the victim of politics.