[EDITORIALS]Problems with Independent Counsel

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[EDITORIALS]Problems with Independent Counsel

After a consensus was reached among political parties, the introduction of an independent counsel for the Lee Yong-ho scandal seems to be certain. Although President Kim Dae-jung said he would accept an independent counsel only if the prosecution fails to clear up all suspicions, the ruling and opposition parties have already started discussing how to set up the independent investigation. That is in step with public opinion.

The introduction of an independent counsel is based on the assumption that the prosecution's investigation went wrong. The prosecution was not trusted even before it started the investigation in earnest; the special prosecutorial unit set up for the investigation, which has been working only three days, must be especially chagrined at the move to name an independent counsel.

There will be some side effects. First of all, the special prosecution unit and the independent counsel will work on the same case. That makes little sense in terms of efficiency and economy. Suspects and witnesses will face duplicate investigations. The prosecution will feel helpless and its image tainted. We had independent counsels for two other cases, including "Furgate," involving the wives of a former prosecutor general and a business tycoon. The independent counsels concluded their cases slightly differently from the prosecution, but their investigations did not meet public expectations because of obstacles they could not overcome and failure to convince the courts on some points.

Most people think there is no alternative to an independent counsel despite the problems. In the current scandal, the prosecution has been the target of suspicion from the start. A suspect was released one day after being arrested on serious charges, and illegal lobbying and pressure by former and current prosecutors were involved in his release. The younger brother of the current prosecutor general accepted money from the suspect for unclear reasons.

Until an independent counsel is in place - certainly not quickly - the prosecution should do its best to investigate the scandal as thoroughly as it can. If their investigation leaves no suspicions unanswered, we might not need an independent counsel at all. That is why the prosecution should work harder than before; its autonomy and reputation are under attack.
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