Prime minister must resign
Before she left on a state visit to Latin America, President Park Geun-hye met with Kim Moo-sung, chairman of the ruling Saenuri Party. The two discussed pending issues, including the fate of Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo, who has been implicated in a snowballing bribery scandal. They also discussed the possibility of endorsing a special investigation into the case. Kim delivered the party’s position on the issues, and the president said she will make decisions after she returns from overseas.
The president would usually meet the prime minister before leaving the country. But the fact that she met with a ruling party head instead suggests she is thinking seriously about replacing Lee. The prime minister has been accused of receiving money from Sung Wan-jong, a construction tycoon who confessed he has been giving money to politicians for years before he committed suicide.
Kim of the Saenuri Party would have advised the president they would have to let Lee go. She was saving face for the prime minister by saying that a decision would be made after she returns.
The meeting between the president and ruling party head is a polite message to the prime minister to resign. Lee should comply. It is not right for a country to be absent with a responsible acting head while the president is away, but Lee’s resignation and cooperation with a prosecution probe would do more to help stabilize the country under the circumstances. There are two deputy prime ministers, the chief presidential secretary, the national security chief and party leaders who can manage affairs until Park returns.
Whether or not he actually received money, Lee has repeatedly lied and tried to escape accountability by saying he doesn’t remember. The public and government employees can no longer trust him.
There is testimony and evidence to suggest truth in Sung’s statement about his shady connection with the politician. The prosecution’s investigation has picked up speed.
We do not want to question the ongoing prosecution investigation, but a special investigation could be necessary to meet public demands for transparency and thoroughness - especially since the affair involves key political figures close to the president.
According to a law passed last year, a task force can be formed only through both legislative approval and the president’s decision. A special probe team can be formed within a month. If the prosecution does the preparatory work well, the special team could finish it fast.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 17, Page 34