Move quickly on Han case

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Move quickly on Han case

Former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook was arrested by prosecutors yesterday. She is accused of receiving $50,000 from Kwak Young-wook, former president of Korea Express, in exchange for favors in job placements. Han had defied the prosecution’s subpoenas and the arrest warrant was issued. We have mixed feelings about the arrest of the former prime minister, especially because Han had built such a clean image, unlike other politicians.

The question is whether Han received the money or not. The former prime minister has argued that she has nothing to hide and has not received a cent. She reportedly exercised her right to remain silent during the prosecution’s questioning, saying she would reveal everything during an open trial.

The truth will be determined in court, which means the prosecution has no reason to waste time and can simply indict her. That it issued three subpoenas and executed the arrest warrant may indicate that the prosecution is confident it can prove the charges against Han. We don’t see any need to detain her. A former prime minister won’t disappear or destroy evidence, right?

The court should move her trial along briskly. Ordinarily, a case involving a detained suspect takes six months before the first ruling is made. Trials involving politicians may well last over a year when they choose not to cooperate for their own self-interests. But this is different. The longer it drags on, the more unnecessary rumors and misunderstanding it will generate.

Han is a senior adviser to the Democratic Party, a link that holds together the pro-Roh Moo-hyun faction, and she has even been mentioned as a candidate for Seoul mayor. It is obvious that the ruling and the opposition parties will engage in some vicious political exchanges during the trial. If the trial does become protracted, the court could be dragged into politicians’ ugly fight for survival.

Han needs to cooperate during the trial to rid herself of the accusations. If the trial is delayed for any reason, it will only create the misconception that she has a political agenda. The opposition would be wise to wait for the court’s ruling, rather than staging political attacks about whether the investigation is motivated by the local elections or political revenge - more so if the opposition doesn’t intend to use the Han case for political gain.

The prosecution should take the Han investigation as an opportunity to review its investigation practices. Intended or not, the process was leaked, and it led to disputes over a politically charged investigation. The prosecutors must also realize that the public, sensing investigators’ inability to handle cases involving influential political figures, is accusing them of bringing the hammer down only on the weak.
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