Suspicions must be cleared

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Suspicions must be cleared

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has decided to reprimand Yun Seok-yeol, former head of the special team investigating the National Intelligence Service’s alleged meddling in last year’s presidential election, for ignoring the chain of command when he ordered the arrests and a raid on NIS agents. He was supposed to report the arrests to his boss, Cho Young-kon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Cho himself will not be punished in the case. But the decision by the top prosecution office has created a stir and complaints of lopsided punishment.

The internal inspection unit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office plans to take disciplinary actions against Yun, the head of the special investigation team, and his immediate subordinate, Park Hyung-chul. Yun will get a three-month suspension and Park a reduction in salary. But their immediate boss Cho escaped internal censure despite his own demands for an investigation into himself. The prosecution’s internal inspection unit has wrapped up the case of internal disobedience by holding the special investigation team accountable for neglecting the normal reporting procedure in the course of arresting NIS staff and conducting a search of their offices.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s decision may have some inevitable aspects because prosecutors can come under fire for abusing their investigative rights without following investigation guidelines. Yun’s remarks also sound inappropriate. “I thought it was hard to get to the bottom of the case together with my boss Cho,” he said.

But suspicions of outside pressure must also be cleared along with the special investigation team’s controversial case. Cho, the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, allegedly said to Yun, “Why do you want to help the opposition party?” and “If you really want to get to the bottom of the case, you can do it after I resign.” It should be explained why he made such suspicious comments. A court already accepted the special investigation team’s request to add more charges to earlier ones against the NIS’s alleged political engagement. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office also vowed to find out the truth and make people take responsibility for what they did.

Discord at the top law enforcement agency is a serious issue for the people. Given the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office’s promise to clear all suspicions, it must lay bare what went wrong. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office must come up with acceptable explanations next time.

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