A loaded investigationThe National Intelligence Service is charging ahead with its investigation of Lee Seok-gi, a proportional representative of the Unified Progressive Party, and others on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government. In the wake of this probe, political conflict will certainly deepen. Now the people need to watch the evolution of the case as calmly as possible until the outlines become clear.
The nation’s top spy agency conducted a search and seizure raid on Lee’s office at the National Assembly with efforts to trace the money flow of those under suspicion after obtaining a court warrant. One of the major charges so far is an alleged plotting to attack core infrastructure facilities of the state at an internal meeting of the Gyeonggi Dongbu Alliance, a faction of the UPP, in Seoul last May. Despite the NIS or the prosecution’s reluctance to disclose the exact findings of their investigations, some pundits are already raising the possibility of the UPP members’ connections to North Korea. In the meantime, Lee and his party flatly deny those charges, calling the investigation “a sheer frame-up aimed at cracking down on liberal and democratic forces in the country.”
We hope the NIS and the prosecution do not follow in the footsteps of their predecessors in the 1970s and 1980s, who were indeed guilty of power abuses against liberals. Many of the defendants in those famous cases were cleared of charges of rebellion conspiracies in retrials afterward. Revelations of terrible torture during their questioning laid bare grim human rights violations, as seen in the case of former President Kim Dae-jung, who was arrested on charges of conspiring to overthrow the government in the 1980s.
The days of brutal investigations are over. But the possibility of investigators exaggerating their findings or abusing their power in the investigation process still persists - especially given the ongoing suspicion that the spy agency is fighting the opposition’s persistent demand for it to be reformed or dispelled.
The NIS and the prosecution should realize this investigation must serve as an exemplary model for national security cases. We made too many sacrifices to achieve democracy to forget that citizens’ basic rights are a crucial value. Law enforcement agencies must avoid any infringement on suspects’ basic rights.
We also urge lawmaker Lee and the UPP to comply with the investigators. Their efforts to block searches constitute an obstruction of justice. Instead of just denying the charges and vowing to struggle, they must tell the truth to investigators.