Opposition challenges prosecution’s integrityThe opposition parties questioned Thursday the integrity of the prosecution after it indicted the chairwoman of the largest opposition party for a suspected violation of election law, while clearing close associates of President Park Geun-hye accused of strong-arming a candidate to give up his constituency before the April 13 general election.
Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office said Wednesday it indicted Rep. Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the Minjoo Party of Korean, on charges of election law violation. Choo was accused of disseminating false information during her campaign.
“When I was a lawmaker for the 16th National Assembly,” she said during a press conference in March, “I made a request to the then minister of court administration that the Eastern District Court must remain in Gwangjin District for the sake of the balanced development of Seoul. And he decided to keep it.”
But the court was relocated to Songpa District. Although Choo told the prosecution during the probe that it was her understanding she had been granted the request, the prosecution said it amounts to disseminating false information.
“The Park administration’s prosecution indicted Minjoo lawmakers en masse, including myself,” said Choo at the Supreme Council meeting Thursday morning. “These indictments are based on fabricated charges.”
“The prosecutors are no longer serving the people,” she said. “They appeared to decide that they will be the servants of those with political power. The prosecution indicted me on charges of disseminating false information, and this is a clear abuse of prosecutorial power.”
Thursday marked the end of the six-month statute of limitations for election law violations concerning the April 13 general election. As of now, 12 Saenuri representatives, 14 Minjoo lawmakers, four People’s Party lawmakers and two independent lawmakers are indicted.
Among the prosecuted Minjoo lawmakers are also Rep. Yun Ho-jung, chief policymaker of the party, and Rep. Lee Jae-jung, its spokesman. A campaign manager of Rep. Chung Sye-kyun, who gave up his Minjoo affiliation after becoming the National Assembly speaker, was also indicted.
“It was a dirty political attack and an attempt to divert public attention from the scandals involving Choi Soon-sil and Woo Byung-woo,” Choo said. Choi, a close friend of Park, and Woo, senior civil affairs secretary, were accused of corruption in two unrelated scandals.
“The prosecution and the Blue House declared war against the largest opposition party,” said Rep. Woo Sang-ho, Minjoo Party’s floor leader. “It was undeniably lopsided that the prosecution cleared Park loyalists while also prosecuting the chairwoman of the main opposition party and its other leaders.”
On Wednesday, Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office cleared Reps. Choi Kyung-hwan and Yoon Sang-hyun of the Saenuri Party and Hyun Ki-hwan, former senior political affairs secretary to the president, of their election-law violation charges.
In July, local media aired a string of recorded conversations between Park’s close allies and Kim Sung-hoi, a former lawmaker of the Saenuri Party, prompting the investigation. Reps. Yoon and Choi as well as Hyun, talked to Kim to pressure him to run in a different district.
They forced Kim, who registered his candidacy for Hwaseong A District, to change his constituency to allow Rep. Suh Chung-won, a key associate of Park and a leader of the faction loyal to the president, to run in the district. Kim subsequently changed his constituency twice, but the party did not award him a nomination. Suh was elected for his eighth term in the district in April.
“They were advising Kim,” a prosecution source told the JoongAng Ilbo. “There were no threats. And Kim also said he didn’t feel threatened.”
The civic group the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which asked the prosecution to investigate the three Park confidants, said the prosecutors apparently conducted a slackened probe.
“It is customary to question the petitioner, but the prosecution didn’t question us,” said the civic group, “and just cleared the suspects.”
The People’s Party also questioned the integrity of the prosecution and demanded a reform.
The ruling Saenuri Party criticized the opposition parties for challenging the prosecution. “The chairwoman of an opposition party is not an extraterritoriality,” Rep. Kim Sung-won, spokesman of the Saenuri Party, said. “The opposition parties’ protests are an attitude to reign over the rule of law.”
BY SER MYO-JA [email@example.com]