[EDITORIALS]Stick prosecutors on oil caseUri Party Representative Lee Kwang-jae said yesterday that he neither pressured the Korea Railroad Corporation into participating in an oil development project in Sakhalin, Russia, nor induced the public company to do so. Mr. Lee made public a summary of recordings of conversations his secretary had with people connected to the case, including Huh Mun-seok, representative of Korea Crude Oil; Chun Dae-wol, president of Highland; and Shin Kwang-soon, president of Korail.
But it doesn’t clear up all suspicions. It has been confirmed by the Audit and Inspection Board that Mr. Shin visited Mr. Lee’s office and asked his help in Korail’s plan to participate in the oil development project.
Why the president of Korail, which is under the supervision of the Assembly’s Construction and Transportation Committee, asked for cooperation and help from Mr. Lee ― who belongs to the Industry and Resources Committee ― demands a reasonable explanation.
Despite lingering suspicions, the board indulged Mr. Lee. The secretary general of the board said yesterday that he did not think Mr. Lee intervened in the deal as had been suspected. He denied Mr. Lee’s involvement even though the board did not investigate him directly; it drew a conclusion while the investigation was still ongoing. This is enough to raise suspicions that the government watchdog acted to protect Mr. Lee.
There are similarities here to other irregular cases from the past. It involves a government investment company; there is a rumor of the intervention of a governing party lawmaker who worked at the Blue House; and, the central figure in the case, Mr. Huh, has left the country, evading the board’s investigation.
We think it is not possible to clarify the truth through the board’s investigation, which has no jurisdiction over civilians and politicians. Following the board’s explanation, Mr. Lee responded by denying his involvement. But that does not mitigate suspicion.
The board has only increased suspicions that it covered up the truth. The prosecution should launch an investigation as soon as possible.
The Grand National Party demands the Assembly’s inspection of the case and introduction of a special prosecutor, while the Millennium Democratic Party demands inspection by public prosecutors.