The new town plan that created such controversy during the legislative elections in April last year is going to court.
The Seoul High Court accepted Monday a request for a trial put forward by the Democratic Party after the prosecutors’ office dismissed the case against Chung Mong-joon and Ahn Hyoung-hwan.
The court believes the pledge for the redevelopment project helped the Grand National Party win 172 seats, a majority in the National Assembly, in the last legislative elections.
As house prices were rising, the pledge to build two new towns raised the expectations of voters in the Seoul area.
However, after the legislative elections, Seoul Mayor Oh Se-hoon said no more areas would be designated for new towns, sparking a furious row.
Chung had earlier said at a rally that Oh had agreed to build new towns in the Sadang and Dongjang areas.
The court said Chung had made a public announcement containing false information in a bid to win the election in his constituency even though Oh had not agreed to any new town plan.
The court’s judgment is at odds with the prosecutors’ view. The prosecutors said last September that the two legislators had done nothing wrong, only admitting that their pledges were exaggerated in some respects. But as their remarks had some basis, it couldn’t be said that they circulated false information. They essentially took a realistic approach that politicians’ remarks are sometimes exaggerated for effect.
But the court has reviewed the investigation documents and wants a stricter standard applied.
The case has drawn attention because few politicians in the past have been charged with spreading false information after making election pledges.
Of course, accepting the request for a trial doesn’t necessarily mean that the court believes the defendants are guilty. It means the court wants more detailed evidence than was contained in the initial indictment.
Meanwhile, Chung says the court’s decision to go to trial jars with the facts and he said the truth will come out in the course of the trail.
Nevertheless, it is useful that the court has highlighted the issue as to whether or not the validity of an election pledge is a legal issue.
Korea’s politics can’t advance without making elections focus on policies and produce truthful election pledges.