[EDITORIALS]Wasted effort by the counselThe independent counsel team led by Kim Jin-heung wrapped up yesterday its three-month investigation into allegations of corruption by aides of President Roh Moo-hyun. Except for a new finding that Choi Do-sul, Mr. Roh’s former secretary, had raised 490 million won ($422,000) of illegal money from businesses, the team failed to produce any tangible results in the probes that it took over from the prosecution.
The counsel has investigated three allegations involving Mr. Roh’s aides: that Choi Do-sul received 30 billion won from businesses, that the Sun & Moon resort group gave a total of 9.5 billion won to Lee Kwang-jae, a former Blue House secretary, asking him for favors, and that Lee Won-ho, the owner of a nightclub in Cheongju, North Chungcheong province, gave about 5 billion won to Yang Gil-seung, Mr. Roh’s former secretary, to evade criminal charges against him.
But the counsel said yesterday that all the three charges were unfounded.
We believe that the counsel’s investigation was not to find out the truth. It was an investigation to defend Mr. Roh’s aides. This is why some call the independent counsel a special defense counsel.
The counsel team was shaken from the very beginning. Concerns were raised that the team was composed of former judges and lawyers who lack investigative experience. Some also criticized the past records of the team members, saying that they were not neutral. An assistant independent counsel resigned, citing internal conflict that was said to have arisen from different views on how to define the investigation. We suspect that the team may have curtailed the scope of its investigation to stay far away from the politically powerful.
The independent counsel is supposed to be unreachable by political influence. If what the current counsel has produced was no more than that which the prosecution had already learned, it was a wasted effort. The National Assembly mandated the counsel to investigate all kinds of unsubstantiated rumors.
A special counsel should be set up quickly for any politically sensitive issues. The way the counsel team is formed, in which incumbent prosecutors are dispatched, should be changed as well.