&#91EDITORIALS&#93Hands off, Mr. Roh

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[EDITORIALS]Hands off, Mr. Roh

After being briefed on Ministry of Justice reports, President Roh Moo-hyun said, “Investigations into the financial irregularities of the Nara Merchant Bank should be made thorough and without political consideration.” At a glance, that statement seems normal. But when we consider that the case was under investigation and the president’s order followed the ministry’s briefing, we cannot but think differently. Since some of his close aides are suspected of being connected in the scandal, we worry that Mr. Roh’s interest will burden to investigation.
Mr. Roh’s direct encouragement to the investigators that they should investigate the president himself if necessary is meaningful and will give a positive effect. And we can read his will asking the prosecution to investigate without sanctuary. It is refreshing to see that he made public his will for an investigation openly.
However, it is problematic that he was briefed on the investigation process of a specific case by a senior prosecutor. The scandal not only involves Mr. Roh’s close aides but it also, according to the opposition’s claim, raises suspicions about political fund transactions, implying that Mr. Roh himself might be included as a concerned party. It might be seen that one of the people in the concerned party is being briefed on the investigation process and giving directives. Even though it was a bona fide directive to carry out thorough investigations, he should have avoided burdening the prosecutors.
Independence from the prosecution is a irreversible trend, and the will of the president is important. The thinking of senior prosecutors should change and they should work hard to reform wrong past practices. The old practice of letting senior prosecutors be present at the Ministry of Justice’s report to the president should be abolished. That is a remnant of the authoritarian era. In the same vein, Mr. Roh’s plan to have discussions with senior prosecutors next month must be reconsidered, as should his plan to meet leaders of the judiciary should.
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