[EDITORIALS]The next step is obvious

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[EDITORIALS]The next step is obvious

The facts in the scandal involving Deputy Justice Minister Shin Kwang-ok, which centers around allegations he received a bribe of 100 million won ($78,000) while serving as presidential secretary for civil affairs, are slowly being pieced together. Because the scandal is about sensitive issues and Mr. Shin strongly denies taking a bribe, some have doubted the charges. But confirmation that Chin Seung-hyun testified that he met with Mr. Shin has strengthened suspicions.

Although Mr. Shin consistently denies the charge, his argument has been weakened. He first said that he had never met Mr. Chin, but later changed his words, claiming he does not recall meeting him. Mr. Shin admits that he met and dined with Choi Taek-gon, a lobbyist for Mr. Chin, three or four times. Prosecutors tried to avoid their responsibility by arguing they never concluded that Mr. Shin did not receive the money. The Justice Ministry, which once commented that the scandal was groundless, has changed its tune, now saying that comment was not official.

Ignoring suspicions over Mr. Shin's involvement in the alleged bribery case is impossible. The closest aide to the president, who has led and supervised corruption investigations, is suspected of being bribed to cover up a financial scandal. This administration has no choice but to attack the scandal at its core to uphold its morality. With doubts being amplified, investigations should begin as soon as possible.

The time is approaching for investigators of the scandal to summon Mr. Shin to facilitate a full and in-depth probe into the case. Under such circumstances, understanding how Mr. Shin can retain his post in the Justice Ministry is difficult. Avoiding calling him in for interrogation is no longer possible. No matter how strong the will of the prosecutors, investigating their superior will not be easy to do.

We believe the best solution to the situation is for Mr. Shin to step down voluntarily. That a public servant, once the top official for investigating corruption, is suspected of being bribed is a national disgrace. He should make the decision to step down as soon as possible. Just as ugly is the prospect that the incumbent deputy justice minister would be summoned and interrogated by his staff, an occurrence that would harm the discipline of the prosecutors office.

Another option is for Mr. Shin to be fired by the person who has this power. The argument that his dismissal should be delayed until he is proven guilty of receiving money is nothing but an excuse inspired by idealism. While he was senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, Mr. Shin met with Choi Taek-gon, known to be a political lobbyist, on a number of occasions. That is enough to fuel suspicions. Mr. Shin behaved inappropriately in this case.

Furthermore, Chin Seung-hyun insists that he met with Mr. Shin twice. It is also known that the Sajik-dong Team, a special investigative police unit under the control of the Blue House, reportedly investigated Mr. Chin and reported the investigation results to Mr. Shin. The suspicions are more than enough to reprimand Mr. Shin.

The government's will to investigate the scandal is questionable as long as the suspect remains in his post. Seoul could be accused of hindering the investigation. The ruling Millennium Democratic Party has even said that Mr. Shin should be dismissed. Instead of making promises of a thorough investigation, the government should provide the prosecutors the basic conditions to dig into the scandal.
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