Hong probe must be fast, thorough

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Hong probe must be fast, thorough

The prosecution has begun an investigation into a whistle-blowing allegation that former lawmaker Hong Sa-duk of the ruling Saenuri Party received 60 million won ($53,640) from a businessman in the April legislative elections. He flatly denied the allegation and urged prosecutors to quickly investigate the charge. The businessman, surnamed Jin, said he will sue the whistle-blower - his former chauffeur - on charges of calumny, claiming he concocted a false accusation to receive compensation from the National Election Commission.

Since the April legislative election - and as the presidential race began - an alarming spate of “black money” scandals has ensued. Saenuri Party lawmaker Hyun Young-hee was indicted in a money-for-nomination scheme, and Yang Gyeong-suk, former head of the liberal Internet broadcaster Radio 21, was arrested on charges of receiving bribes from three political aspirants in exchange for her influence in getting them nominations in the opposition Democratic United Party.

Hong’s case, however, is vastly different due to his political stature: As former vice speaker of the National Assembly, he served as co-chairman of Park Geun-hye’s primary campaign earlier this year. If the allegations prove true, it would deal a debilitating blow to both Park and Hong.

Incidents involving corruption during the presidential race can wreak havoc on candidates’ reputations and distort results. The Grand National Party’s presidential candidate, Lee Hoi-chang, was defeated in the 2002 election after power broker Kim Dae-yeop falsely accused him of helping his son dodge military duty. Kim was sentenced to a prison term later, but only after the election was over. A similar scam - dubbed the “BBK scandal” - also was forged by the GNP in the 2007 presidential election.

Because the statute of limitations will expire soon in Hong’s case, the prosecution will hurry its investigation. But we hope prosecutors expedite the probe even more and at the same time leave no room for misunderstanding due to a shoddy inquiry, as seen in the case of former Representative Hyun Young-hee. An arrest warrant for her was dismissed by the court when the prosecution failed to sufficiently explain why she should be prosecuted, and former lawmaker Hyun Ki-hwan, who was on the Saenuri Party’s nomination committee for the April elections, was acquitted of his bribery charge.

If Hong was unjustly accused, he should be cleared of the bum rap as quickly as possible. Otherwise, he must be brought to justice.

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