Shame on the ProsecutionThe Seoul District Court, through its ruling, concluded that the Hanvit Bank's illegal loan case amounted to power-backed corruption. The case stirred up controversy during the prosecution's investigation; many people suspected that the prosecution attempted to reduce the scope of the case and cover up the truth. At that time, prosecutors defined the nature of the case as a "simple loan charade." The court's ruling has revealed how misguided the prosecution's investigation was in its basic direction.
Since the case broke out, many people raised questions because it reeked of a power-backed irregularity relying on external pressures, judging from the amount of loans granted and the methods used to obtain them. In particular, as rumor circulated how tight Park Hye-ryong, a former head of ArcWorld Inc., was with former Culture and Tourism Minister Park Jie-won, an influential figure in the current regime, the discovery of the powers that protected Park Hye-ryong behind the scenes looked like the crux of the matter. When no progress was made in this area, prosecutors invited criticism that they reduced the scope or concealed what they knew. National Assembly hearings followed, but without determining the truth about the existence of external pressures or protective powers, they ended up fanning doubts.
The verdict includes many parts that merit careful mulling over. Specifically, it is extremely unusual for the court to openly point out in its ruling that investigative efforts were insufficient: "We strongly suspect that former Minister Park Jie-won wielded undue influence on the upper echelons, including Vice President Lee Soo-kil, of Hanvit Bank to grant illegal loans to Park Hye-ryong, but we are unable to verify this fact from investigation reports and court statements." It is also noteworthy that the court spelled out why it suspected the existence of external pressures: Park Hye-ryong used to brag that he was the minister's nephew; on the afternoon that Park Hye-ryong paid a visit to the minister, Hanvit Vice President Lee instructed a branch manager and an inspector to give favorable consideration to ArcWorld; illegal loans began to follow immediately after Mr. Lee's instruction; Park Hye-ryong visited the minister's house on seven occasions and showered him with gifts, including suits and neckties. It is also significant that the court defined the character of the case lucidly: the case has put Korea's ills into a glaring light ?the prevailing mood in which power is considered everything so that the law is taken lightly, the atmosphere in which requests from higher-ups and whispered instructions have precedence over principles and regulations, and where corrupt and amoral bank employees and businesspeople place more importance on under-the-table transactions than on proper corporate activities.
How can it be possible that the court and the prosecution view the same case from such clashing perspectives? We have a feeling that the roles and the functions between the prosecution and the court have been reversed as far as this case is concerned. Isn't the prosecution supposed to focus on revealing crimes as the organ that exercises the state's penal authority, while the court puts its priority on protecting human rights? Now that prosecutors appeared to have looked the other way about the case that has prompted the court to suspect a power-backed irregularity, what explanations will they offer to the curious public?
Truth may be shrouded for the time being, but it is bound to come out at one time or another. What more truth will the Appeals Court and the Supreme Court find?