Prosecutors must investigate

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Prosecutors must investigate

The excesses of Choi Soon-sil, a so-called friend of President Park Geun-hye, have become a major political and social hot potato. But it’s uncertain how much the prosecution can dig into the allegations, which is why we need an independent and politically neutral team to address the matter.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office has reinforced the special force investigating Choi and the foundations she set up. Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam ordered thorough investigations. The founding heads of the two questionable fund-raising organizations, Mi-R Foundation and K-Sports Foundation, as well as executives from the chaebol-lobby group Federation of Korean Industries have been summoned.

Prosecutors are questioning how the fund from conglomerates was raised and are tracing where the money ended up. They are also examining the computer files after the JTBC report showed that Choi received drafts of presidential speeches and edited them.

But from the developments so far, we suspect whether the prosecution is genuinely serious about the investigation. It sat on the charges and only embarked upon the probe after getting the president’s formal cue. It has summoned relevant people, but didn’t make any raid to seize evidence until Tuesday. Meanwhile, the files would have been destroyed and key figures have fled abroad. Upon the president’s comments about irregularities over the use of the donations, the investigation could end up charging the foundations for embezzlement instead of questioning their identities and the purpose of the fund-raising.

The scandal has snowballed after it was revealed Choi had access to many confidential presidential documents. She and others would have violated the confidentiality laws and code on presidential files and documents on state affairs. Regardless of the president’s public apology, why and how the documents were shared with Choi should be investigated, and those found to be responsible must be punished according to the law. But it is doubtful the prosecution, which gets its orders from the presidential office, will really come up with credible findings.

The prosecution probe could end up aggravating a political dispute. There had been special probes on family members and aides of presidents before. The people involved were either cleared of the charges or sent for trials. The scandals involving Choi should be investigated through a special probe. Members of the ruling party are also calling for a special or parliamentary investigation. The legislature should endorse a bill to create a special investigating body. The president and her aides should cooperate in order to minimize the confusion and damage.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 26, Page 34
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