A half-hearted investigation

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A half-hearted investigation

The prosecution must be frustrated that its investigation into a payoff scandal exposed by construction tycoon Sung Wan-jong is dragging on. They’ve got nothing but circumstantial evidence and a 56-word note Sung left behind last month before committing suicide. The note details a list of people who allegedly took money from him, many of them in the president’s inner circle. The prosecution also has to deal with the mounting public pressure to bring those under suspicion to justice.

But despite such trying circumstances, the prosecution deserves credit for holding South Gyeongsang Governor Hong Joon-pyo and former Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo - two of the eight politicians mentioned on the list - accountable for violating the Political Fund Law. It is now left to investigate the six remaining political bigwigs, including former and current chief presidential secretaries and other pro-Park Geun-hye lawmakers.

The public, in particular, harbors strong suspicions about potential corruption among the president’s inner circle.

However, only disappointment came from the investigation team after it announced a plan to prosecute Governor Hong and former Prime Minister Lee. The investigators said it was difficult to investigate Hong Moon-jong, a lawmaker of the ruling Saenuri Party suspected to be involved in suspicious funneling of funds to the 2012 Park Geun-hye presidential race. The business tycoon wrote in his memo that he gave 200 million won ($181,028) to Hong, then the campaign manager of the Park camp; 300 million won to Yoo Jeong-bok, a campaign staffer and now the Incheon city mayor; and another 200 million won to Suh Byung-soo, a former lawmaker and the current mayor of Busan.

The investigation team said that despite a thorough investigation of their whereabouts during the election, it couldn’t find any trace of get-togethers among the three politicians and Sung. Prosecutors also stated that there was no consistency in the testimonies of the employees from Sung’s construction company, Keangnam Enterprises, about anyone there handing over 200 million won to a party official. The team simply cannot find a rationale for summoning those politicians for questioning.

The prosecution’s attitude makes us doubt its determination. First of all, we wonder if Sung would really leave behind bribery records on his official calendar. The prosecution is also suspected of rushing the case, and there have been rumors that they will try to find any excuse to end the investigation. We urge them to be serious.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 28, Page 34

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