[EDITORIALS]Independent counsel needed

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[EDITORIALS]Independent counsel needed

The National Assembly yesterday voted to introduce an independent counsel to investigate graft charges against President Roh Moo-hyun’s long-time aides. Lee Kwang-jae, a former Blue House secretary for information and policy monitoring, Choi Do-sul, a former Blue House secretary for general affairs, and Yang Gil-seung, Mr. Roh’s personal secretary, are the targets. The charges against them must be uncovered by the independent counsel to leave no trace of doubt.
The Blue House and the Our Open Party opposed the independent counsel, saying there are ongoing investigations by the prosecution. The prosecution itself said it is thinking about asking the Constitutional Court to review possible jurisdictional conflict. To be sure, it would normally be less than optimal for an independent counsel to launch a new investigation on cases already being investigated by the prosecution. We have opposed an independent counsel investigation of last year’s presidential campaign financing because it could interfere with the prosecution’s work.
But improprieties by the president’s aides and irregularities in campaign financing are very different issues. In the case of the president’s aides, the independent counsel is better suited to get the facts than the prosecution since it is bound to be freer from the influence of power. And the prosecution has appeared strangely reluctant to investigate the president’s aides lately.
Mr. Roh ought to support the independent counsel resolution. The proposal already has more than two-thirds of the National Assembly’s support, which will likely be enough to override a possible veto by Mr. Roh. The president himself has said that he would support the proposal if it passes the National Assembly. If he chooses to use the veto only to have the Assembly override it, he will be hard pressed to escape suspicion that he has something to hide. If he is indeed innocent of the charges brought by the opposition, this is an opportunity to put them behind him. Surely the president does not want to let questions on his aides’ conduct to drag on until the end of his term.

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