The president’s next 72 hours

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The president’s next 72 hours


Koreans say a woman’s grudge could make frost fall in the summer, but a man’s revenge can be just as fierce. Before Sung Wan-jong, the former chairman of Keangnam Enterprises, climbed Mount Bukhan, he left behind a suicide note and an audio file of a phone conversation. In the aftermath of his death, we have now had to witness some absurd consequences.

When Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo’s name appeared in Sung’s memo, Lee claimed that Sung misunderstood the situation. The Office of the Prime Minister argued, “Sung reportedly thought that prosecutors’ investigation on him was related to the prime minister’s statement.”

Only a month ago, Prime Minister Lee declared to “investigate all chronic vice and corruption, and eradicate them under a no-tolerance principle.”

So was the investigation into Keangnam Enterprises unrelated to his statement? Does he admit that he was nothing but the “face?”

Or is prosecutorial investment not related to the eradication of corruption?

The prosecution is not much different. As the scandal spreads, the prosecutors even said that they did not know what kind of man Sung was.

They claimed that the investigation was launched based on internal probe results that Keangnam Enterprises was especially faulty among the companies involved in resources development projects. They added, “It shows that we were not investigating corruption allegations on the persons involved, and we had no political motivations.”

One former prosecutor turned attorney said, “I don’t mean to say that it was wrong to target Sung Wan-jong for investigation. If there are allegations, they must be looked in to. However, prosecutors should have thoroughly comprehended the targets and scope, and taken risks and consequences into account when moving forward.

How could they claim that they did not know? What about Sung’s claim that the prosecutors encouraged him to make a deal for personal corruption charges on allegations associated with the resources development project?”

Some ruling party insiders have argued that this latest scandal would not have occurred if former Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon were still in the Blue House. The Prime Minister’s manner, and the prosecutors and the ruling party who have dealt with the scandal once, have once again shed light on the often frivolous nature of Korean society. On Thursday, it will have been one year since the Sewol ferry sank in waters off Jindo, South Jeolla, but nothing has changed in politics or in the prosecution.

A law school professor pointed out, “How can restitution be paid when the prosecution merely dances to the Blue House’s directives instead of serving as a watchdog for society? Sung claimed that the long-standing evils the president expressed outrage against were actually committed by her cronies. She wants to ‘rebuild’ the nation, but what has really improved?”

Roman prefect Pontius Pilate washed his hands to show that he was not responsible for the death of Jesus, while his soldiers crucified Jesus and cast lots for his garments. But unlike Pontius Pilate, the allegations regarding campaign funds have left President Park Geun-hye nowhere to hide.

Her biggest responsibility is not just that of political rhetoric, but substantial truth. This allegation could be associated with her forever. It is something she has called upon herself. When her approval ratings plummeted following revelations concerning a leaked Blue House report, she resorted to “prosecution politics,” only to be caught in her own trap.

At this juncture, I wonder if she really has to go abroad on April 16. If she must, she has a few days in Korea and she must do two things during that time. First, she needs to show us what has really changed since the tragedy. She must admit that she has neglected and condoned long-standing evils on her watch.

Second, she should personally declare her intention to reveal the truth about Sung Wan-jong.

Does President Park really want the truth revealed? Unless she assures us personally, I would bet she doesn’t. If they are not confident, our independent counsel should be named.

A year ago, the president’s absence for several hours in the aftermath of the sinking remained unexplained. President Park’s last golden opportunity is within the next 72 hours, and for her, silence is not golden.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 13, Page 30

*The author is the national news editor for the JoongAng Ilbo.

by Kwon Suk-chun

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