Politics and prosecutors

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Politics and prosecutors

Lee Jae-oh, minister without portfolio, has made some incomprehensible remarks regarding the prosecution’s recent push to investigate several conglomerates for corruption and bribery. Lee, President Lee Myung-bak’s close aide, said in an interview with a local daily: “If there are opposition-party politicians tied to the scandals, the investigation could reach back to the days when [the Democratic Party was] a ruling party. More specifically, it could target the ruling party of the previous administration, too.”

We are dumbfounded by his remarks, which go way beyond his jurisdiction. Lee’s statement gives us the impression that the prosecution has launched probes into messy scandals in collaboration with the ruling party.

Lee denied it by saying, “Of course, an investigation with a special purpose would be unfair. But is it not befitting of a fair society to dig up suspicious corruption and malpractices when they come to the surface?” But characterizing the prosecution’s investigation in this way means the minister knows where the investigation is headed. In fact, Lee himself was a victim of harsh political oppression during the Korea’s democratization movement. He should know perfectly well the importance of having a politically independent prosecution, but we cannot help but attribute his change of attitude to either ignorance or arrogance.

Politicians have long demanded political independence and fair investigations by the prosecution. And whenever a new administration comes into office, politicians demand reform of the prosecution. But the prosecution is not trusted by the public. Whether it’s a ruling party or an opposition party, they should all watch the investigation until it’s over. That will help foster prosecution independence.

Sohn Hak-kyu, the main opposition Democratic Party chairman, said that corruption in large conglomerates should be dealt with as thoroughly and sternly as possible. If the prosecution wants to do its real job, it should be able to investigate and punish the incumbent party. But if it has to put off the job because of realistic hurdles, it should be able to hand down justice when a new political party takes power, so that it can teach a lesson that politicians should steer clear from temptation.

We hope politicians restrain themselves and not resort to politics that will impede the prosecution’s investigation. Rash political bickering ahead of a full investigation will just blur what really happens at the time. The prosecution should not be swayed and just do its job.
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