Rep. Lee must take responsibilityWith its morality already in tatters, the Unified Progressive Party now turned out to have violated the election law - the pivot of democracy. The prosecution’s investigation of CNC, an election promotion company owned by Lee Seok-gi of the party, reportedly confirmed the charges that the firm has violated the law on political funding through various dirty tricks. CNC overstated its promotion expenses for liberal candidates in the April general election to earn more reimbursements from the National Election Commission. The case attracts our keen attention as it constitutes a criminal case entirely different from the previous controversy over its pro-North Korean orientations.
It all began with the Suncheon Branch of the Gwangju District Prosecutors’ Office’s investigation into a corruption case involving liberal candidates in an election for education superintendents of South Jeolla and Gwangju. In the process, prosecutors seized credible evidence of corruption by CNC, which served as a promotion company for the candidates. The prosecution has confirmed most of the criminal charges after thoroughly analyzing the evidence for a month.
The case sets off alarm bells for our aberrant election culture. CNC turned out to have a detailed manual for exaggerating promotion expenses, faking relevant documents and scrapping the original transaction documents. The company most likely pocketed a large amount of money as it provided promotion services not only for education superintendent candidates, but also for political aspirants for the National Assembly, local councils and governments.
But the liberal party took a wrong turn. Prosecutors found that its candidates for a wide range of public posts colluded with CNC to get more reimbursements from the state coffers and divert it to other purposes: political funds for the party’s core faction. That could be a perfect example of a moral hazard. Such degraded moral standards were already confirmed in the massive fraud in the party’s primary for proportional representatives.
Representative Lee, however, flatly denies any wrongdoing. If so, he must accept the investigation to clear himself of all suspicion. If he is found guilty of violating the political funding law and slapped with fines over 1 million won ($875), he loses his seat in the Assembly. The strict law on political funding reflects the significance of those who represent the people.