A reason to vetoThe bill to have an independent counsel investigate alleged irregularities by the Samsung Group was passed in the National Assembly yesterday. It will become law immediately, unless President Roh Moo-hyun vetoes it. The investigation will include four cases related to the ownership transfer of the Samsung Group, suspicions of having slush funds for bribing influential figures and giving congratulatory money to President Roh when he was elected president in 2002. But suspicions abound that politicians composed the bill for political purposes as the presidential election nears. The minister of justice expressed concerns that the bill might be unconstitutional.
Justice Minister Chung Soung-jin said yesterday that including cases that have already been tried or for which trials are in progress in the investigation violates Constitutional principles that prohibit excessiveness and imbalance. He also said that the law treats those who publicized the alleged slush fund, including attorney Kim Yong-cheol, the Samsung Group and other people who are to be investigated differently, violating the Constitutional principle that prohibits discrimination.
An independent investigation has exclusive authority over a case. So these investigations must be conducted very carefully to ensure that the rule of law is followed.
In the past, when it was believed that the prosecution’s investigation was not thorough enough, special investigators were called out. The suspicion about the Samsung Group’s slush fund is still in the early stage. Detailed and concrete criminal acts have not been uncovered yet.
The prosecution has already formed a special investigative team to look into the case. It is wrong to form an additional team without giving the first one the chance to do its job. To appoint an additional team is to deny the prosecution and legitimate legal procedures.
If there are irregularities, prosecutors must find them first. The law was passed in the midst of a presidential campaign, so it can be seen as an election by-product. The case must be debated after the election so politics is not a factor. The president should veto the bill. He should think about Korea’s credibility if a reckless investigation is conducted. Standard operating procedure mandated the prosecution must investigate the case first, and if it is not thorough enough or the results are not sufficient, special investigators must be appointed. A law creating a special investigation team during a presidential election has innate flaws.
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