Push ahead with the probeProsecutors may have secretly let out a sigh of relief upon the news that Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo offered to step down. It could not have been easy to question an active prime minister on bribery allegations. The prosecutors have not obtained sufficient evidence to back up the claim that former Keangnam Enterprises head Sung Wan-jong handed over 30 million won ($27,668) to Lee, who was then running for a constituency in South Chungcheong, in 2013 before the businessman committed suicide during a prosecutors’ probe on irregularities.
The prosecutors have been in an awkward situation with media reports outpacing the progress in the investigation. No matter what they said, they could not have avoided suspicion for political influence. The probe can pick up speed now that the prosecution can freely summon Lee since he is no longer serving in public office.
The prosecution has raided Keangnam again and questioned its former executives. Moon Moo-il, chief prosecutor of the special investigation team, said they were currently focusing on collecting as much evidence as possible to build their case. Prosecutors will first question Keangnam Enterprises employees.
Moon said his team has their own thoughts on the direction and schedule of the probe and will push ahead with them regardless of what others say. Suspicion and criticism has built up after Kim Ki-choon, former chief presidential secretary who is also among the names Sung listed as having paid off in the past, went to Japan for a two-day trip.
Prosecutors are expected to expand the probe to overall corruption allegations against politicians. President Park Geun-hye demanded that the prosecution must carry out a thorough investigation with the goal of political reform. Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an said there was a need to inspect overall political funding practices. The people hope the case would provide a turning point to end the long-standing shady connection between business and politicians. To do so, prosecutors must be bold. They should not waver because the targets are key aides of the president. They must do away with the customary probe practices in order to see the challenging work through. JoongAng Ilbo, April 22, Page 30