[EDITORIALS]Probe ends, new era beginsThe prosecutors’ investigation of illegal funds for the presidential campaign is over. The probe began last August with the scandal of the SK Group’s secret fund and lasted for nine months. During the investigation, the prosecutors indicted 23 incumbent lawmakers and exposed nearly 100 billion won ($84.7 million) of illegal funds that had flowed into the coffers of candidates in the 2002 presidential campaign.
This examination by the prosecutors has great meaning, because it was the first investigation into illegal political funds of presidential candidates of both the ruling and opposition parties, including the incumbent president, “the living power” that has in the past been off-limits for such probes. Through the investigation, the ugliness of the secret connections between the political and business sectors, such as donations by “truckloads,” and secret deals such as “rewards for switching party affiliation” have been exposed. The corruption of the president’s aides has also been exposed. The investigation has clearly showed the necessity of political reform. And through the investigation, the prosecutors have gotten the chance to shed the public distrust in them and the disgrace of being known as “political prosecutors.”
Announcing the result of the investigation, the prosecution said that it would not book President Roh Moo-hyun or Lee Hoi-chang, the former leader of the opposition Grand National Party. It said there was no evidence that Mr. Roh or Mr. Lee were directly involved in the illegal collection of campaign funds. The constitutional provision that the president “should not be prosecuted during his term of office except on charges of rebellion or foreign troubles” could have made it difficult for the prosecutors to go further in an investigation of Mr. Roh. But the results could trigger complaints that the prosecutors charged only the aides or subordinates while granting indulgences to the candidates.
The prosecutors said they took the current economic difficulties into account in going after companies. But this will probably be the last time that happens. This investigation should help break the dark links between the business and political sectors. Laws should be set up to make political funds and companies’ accounting practices transparent.