[EDITORIALS]Prosecutorial neutrality

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[EDITORIALS]Prosecutorial neutrality

Some unexpected remarks by the Millennium Democratic Party Representative Lee Hai-chan have embroiled the political arena in fierce verbal exchanges over the alleged draft-dodging of the Grand National Party presidential candidate's son, Lee Jeong-yeon. The prosecutors probing the allegation have been dragged into the battle, which threatens the fairness of the investigation as well as their own political neutrality.

Representative Lee said that doubts about the candidate's son arose in March while prosecutors were investigating the former head of the Military Manpower Administration, Kim Kil-boo. But prosecutors found it awkward to investigate on their own initiative, Mr. Lee said, and asked him to raise it in the National Assembly. At first, Mr. Lee implied that the request might have come from Park Young-kwan, the chief prosecutor in the GNP candidate's son's case. Later, Mr. Lee amended himself and said it came from someone with no connection to the prosecution. Mr. Park also flatly denied any involvement.

If Mr. Lee's remarks are true, it seems to prove the Grand National Party's argument that the alleged draft-dodging scandal is political maneuvering by the Millennium Democratic Party and the prosecution against its presidential candidate. It also suggests that prosecutors may leak information on their investigations to politicians. It is enough to fuel suspicion that the prosecutors are in cahoots with the MDP.

According to Mr. Lee, the prosecutors told him that the military records of the GNP candidate's son may have been forged, that there was a meeting to conceal that allegation, that the former head of the Military Manpower Administration became tight-lipped after a family member of the GNP candidate visited him once. Representative Lee's elaboration is very detailed. In fact, a report from another MDP representative, Chun Yong-taek, and the prosecutors' probe dovetail with his remarks.

The MDP and the prosecution say they are trying to get to the truth without political calculations. That line is no longer convincing. Mr. Lee first raised the possibility of prosecutorial meddling, and must say who asked him to bring up the draft-dodging allegation. If he does not, suspicions will only mount.

The prosecution must look into how detailed investigation outcomes were leaked to the political arena. It is difficult to understand why Mr. Park, the chief prosecutor handling the draft-dodging allegations, remains in his post after the reshuffle of Thursday. The prosecution claims that Mr. Park and Representative Lee both denied any involvement, so there is no reason to replace Mr. Park. Still, how will the public trust the outcome of a probe involving the chief prosecutor?

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