Independent counsel needed

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Independent counsel needed

On April 1, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office vowed to get to the bottom of the illegal spying on private citizens by the Public Ethics Office of the Prime Minister’s Office as soon as possible. However, we cannot but wonder if the prosecution kept its promise.

A special investigation unit at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office wrapped up its investigation yesterday by indicting only five suspects, including former Minister of Knowledge Economy Park Young-joon. And the prosecution singled out Park — who is already behind bars on a corruption charge involving a development project — as the kingpin of the surveillance scam. That contradicts an earlier document pointing to President Lee Myung-bak at the end of the reporting chain.

Responding to another suspicion that the Office of the Civil Affairs Secretary to the President was involved in paying off accomplices and destroying relevant evidence as well, the prosecution said it was unable to confirm the office’s role in the abuse of power scandal. Such a lackluster conclusion can hardly avoid the criticism that prosecutors only relied on verbal statements from a number of suspects, many of whom said they gave their own money to the tune of tens of millions of won to Jang Jin-su, a former official of the Public Ethics Office, out of a “pure motive,” not to persuade him to stay mum.

The prosecution also accepted the Blue House Civil Affairs Office officials’ testimony that they were not aware of the delivery of money and that they didn’t order evidence to be destroyed.

The only new fact is that the Prime Minister’s Public Ethics Office, in their amateur James Bond operation, gathered information on major figures like Samsung Chairman Lee Kun-hee, former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lee Yong-hoon and current Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. But the prosecution found fault in only three out of 500 surveillance cases.

Simply put, the prosecution tied its own hands behind its back in the illegal espionage case and never found out where the buck stopped and where the money came from.

Spying on private citizens’ lives constitutes a grave violation of human rights. We propose a reinvestigation by a qualified independent counsel. If the special prosecutor still fails to put an end to the case, then the National Assembly can use its investigative powers. If the government loses this chance, people’s privacy will be easy prey to Big Brother.

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