[EDITORIALS]Hands off the counselThere is a lot of talk about whether the independent counsel should exclude former President Kim Dae-jung from its investigation and whether the counsel’s term should be lengthened. Moon Hee-sang, the Blue House chief of staff, yesterday said in a Blue House meeting, “Considering the understanding among ruling and opposition parties when President Roh Moo-hyun approved the independent counsel, investigating the former president is not desirable.”
The governing Millennium Democratic Party yesterday agreed to oppose an extension of the independent counsel’s term as its official policy, and they are planning to make a formal proposal to that effect to President Roh. It claims that with the deadline for the first 70 days of investigation coming up on June 25, the counsel can accelerate its work in the days ahead and wrap up the investigation. Representative Hahn Hwa-kap, former chairman of the governing party, went a step further, saying, “We cannot convict persons who have pioneered an era of reconciliation and coexistence of the Korean peoples.” He added, “Having special prosecutors look into the inter-Korean summit is a cut below demonstrating immaturity in governance.”
We can understand that disclosing details of inter-Korean relations may not be conducive to our national interests, but the counsel is investigating illegal activities under a law passed by the National Assembly and signed by the president. The counsel’s team is actively carrying out its job. Every suspicion or illegal transaction should be clarified. There should be no laundering of the suspicions under the cloak of presidential prerogative. The extension of the counsel’s work should be decided by the counsel; it is not a political decision. The counsel has said that it would be physically impossible for it to complete its investigation in 70 days, so it is tantamount to obstructing an investigation that polticians are intervening in the debate on an extension. The counsel should decide how much of its investigation to make public after the team concludes its work. The debate over what qualifies as presidential prerogative should be settled by the courts.