Time to respect presidential oath

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Time to respect presidential oath

Freshly unearthed evidence suggests that the clandestine wiretapping of citizens by the Prime Minister’s Office may have been routinely reported to President Lee Myung-bak. Prosecutors traced documents drawn up by the office’s public ethics division, which was responsible for the illegal surveillance activities on critics of the president, and found one entitled “Command Order of the Operation.” This described the division’s primary role as removing stumbling blocks against the governance of the man it referred to as the “VIP,” with special tasks to be commissioned by a secret organization devoted to him. The evidence suggests that Lee was the VIP and the division served him directly, meaning that both president and his chief of staff would have been aware of its spying activities and what they turned up.

What is even more surprising is the authoritarian way in which the division - an administrative office in a democratic government - was run, relying on such terms as “absolute loyalty” and “separate secret line.” Its “special contact” at the Blue House would most likely have been either Lee Young-ho, a former senior secretary to the president for employment and labor who has already confessed to having ordered his subordinates to destroy evidence of the illegal wiretapping, or Lee In-kyu, the former head of the contentious Prime Minister’s Office division. This suggests that the so-called “Yeongpo Line,” a group of Lee loyalists from his hometown in Pohang, North Gyeongsang, was behind the secret spying operation. Other documents obtained by prosecutors showed that the office kept tabs on ruling Saenuri Party Reps Hyun Ki-hwan and Chung Doo-un, as well as on the Democratic United Party’s Lee Seok-hyun, Baek Won-woo and their associates. The division even recommend that certain senior officials or heads of state agencies be dismissed for their acts of disloyalty.

The public has a right to know how much the president was aware of such activities, and how he responded to their findings. As the chief executive of the state, he is duty-bound to uphold the Constitution, which guarantees people’s privacy and liberty. As such, Lee must clarify his position on the infringement of people’s basic rights by a government agency.

The prosecution’s investigations cannot gain public credibility without the president’s strong will to uncover the truth. The more he prevaricates, the more he will have to answer for down the road. Lee must recall the vows he made when he took office in February 2008.

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