[OUTLOOK]Call it a day on political funds

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[OUTLOOK]Call it a day on political funds

The prosecution’s inquiry into illegal funds used in the last presidential election is finally drawing to an end after five months. Despite the considerable achievements it has made, not every aspect about the investigation can be evaluated as satisfactory.
Since the launching of the Roh administration, the “participatory government,” the prosecution has gained considerable independence from the administration and has been trying very hard to exercise its authority with fairness. Despite the fact that investigations into political affairs and power relations are characteristically difficult, the prosecution has shown diligence and courage, winning the wholehearted trust of the public.
The number of figures who were exercising power at the beginning of the administration, but were then investigated and indicted on charges of bribery and corruption, is staggering.
However, one cannot help harboring doubts about the amount of political funds disclosed by the prosecution in its interim announcement of the amounts given to the political parties by Korea’s conglomerates for the last presidential election.
Who can quite believe that the biggest four conglomerate groups in Korea, which allegedly gave a total of 70 billion won ($58 million) in illegal funds to the Grand National Party, only gave a small amount, in legal funds only, to the Roh campaign and the Millennium Democratic Party?
Even if it was generally expected that the Grand National candidate would win and the jaebeol owners were on chummier terms with the opposition party candidate, the firms would hardly have kept from “congratulating” the president-elect after the election.
Of course, the prosecution has not concluded its investigation on the conglomerates yet. It is even pressuring the firms to cooperate by offering to deal leniently with those who help disclose the amounts of secret funds and threatening those who don’t. The final results of the investigation are not yet in.
But the investigation of the illegal funds provided by the firms already seems to have lost steam because of the biased investigation results made public so far. Therefore, it would be difficult to expect any development in the investigation that relies on the confessional testimony of people involved without hard evidence.
Moreover, it must be pointed out that the president did not help matters by making bombshell statements at every crucial point of the investigation by the prosecution, such as proposing a vote of confidence in himself after allegations of corruption were laid against his aides, offering to step down should it be discovered that his camp had received over one-tenth of the illegal funds gathered by the opposition and suggesting that the law should not punish firms too severely in consideration of the economic situation.
The prosecution claims that it would not let the president influence its probe, but it still is true that the related firms would react to the president’s statements.
Under such circumstances, the best thing for the prosecution to do would be to wrap up the investigation. It would be better for the prosecution to honestly admit the shortcomings and failings of its investigation and end it without further ado. This would be all the more appropriate thing to do if the prosecution had truly started its investigation with pure motives.
It is not desirable for the prosecution to start investigating the local chapters of every political party to find out the usage of the illegal campaign funds and other details. That investigation would probably yield very little. Also, a few weeks before the general election is not the smartest time for the prosecution to start such a probe.
Contrary to the intentions of the prosecution, the political sector would only start to fight and engage in a dissipating war of slander that would harm the interests of the public in the end. In addition, with the upcoming general election, the prosecution might unwittingly find itself being accused of being used as a tool by certain forces for the dishonest purpose of harassing their political opponents.
Even when dealing with a political corps where all kinds of bribery and corruption have become the custom over a long period of time, the prosecution should not be the one to demand and pursue reform. We know this through historical experience.
The prosecution should not believe that it can swing its authority around in any way it likes just because it is independent and neutral, or it could end up meeting the same fate as Sonogong, the monkey king who swung his invincible staff Yeouibong around, only to be punished by Buddha.
The prosecution should leave the rest to the voters.

* The writer is a lawyer. Translation by the JoongAng Daily staff.

by Kang Won-il
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