[EDITORIALS]Another Unsatisfactory Investigation

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[EDITORIALS]Another Unsatisfactory Investigation

Defense Ministry prosecutors made public yesterday the mid-term results of the draft-dodging investigation allegedly involving Park No-hang, an army sergeant. The results are deeply disappointing and hollow, even after investigators had two weeks following Mr. Park's arrest to develop their case.

The government has not only had problems finding the truth; it had problems catching the fugitive for the past three years.

First, none of the sons of the social "haves" and politicians suspected by civic groups and rumored to have dodged the draft were revealed by the investigation. Further, the investigation results do not seem to support charges of violating the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Special Crimes, since Mr. Park was only indicted on charges of accepting 320 million won ($250,000) in bribes in return for exemption from military service of 21 individuals.

Nothing new was revealed by the investigation into what might have been a systemic and organized network that enabled Mr. Park and some of the accused within the military, including Warrant Officer Won Yong-su, who was detained during the first draft-dodging investigation in 1998, to commit the crimes. There are also claims that, during a 1999 investigation, Defense Security Command officers intervened in the military prosecutors' investigation of irregularities committed by Defense Security Command officers themselves.

In addition, military prosecutors said in 1998 that there was an attempt by the commander of a military police unit to protect Mr. Park from the scandal. Nonetheless, military prosecutors were unable to disclose any new facts about the possible existence of draft-dodging rings within the military and whether there were attempts to help Mr. Park escape and obstruct investigations.

There are also suspicions that the investigation of those who protected Mr. Park during his days on the run is incomplete. True, two investigators have been detained on charges of having assisted his escape. A retired major general who headed the search for Mr. Park is being investigated on charges that he forged documents after Mr. Park's flight to treat retroactively his absence from military duty as a vacation. The general's deputy was indicted without detention.

We do not believe the probes into the chief investigator and his deputy are deep enough. In May 1998, just a day after Mr. Park went into hiding, investigators and military police met with Mr. Park. Upon learning of that meeting, we believe, the general in charge of the probe belatedly processed the leave papers to paper over Mr. Park's flight.

Although those involved have said that they were trying to convince Mr. Park to surrender, it is difficult to believe that; the search investigation team did not arrest him when they met him and no action was taken after a warrant was issued for Mr. Park's arrest on charges of deserting from the military. Was their motive, which seems to have been to assist his flight, completely unconnected to draft-dodging? Such unsatisfactory investigation results give rise to suspicions that there was concern about the possibility of a backlash and the protection of the agencies and the military police to which Mr. Park belonged. Recently, a military policeman allegedly ignored the chain of command and went directly to the defense minister to express his concern over low morale among the military police. Military and civilian prosecutors should redouble their investigations into these questionable points and dispel people's suspicions.
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