Park must face the music

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Park must face the music

The Choi Soon-sil scandal takes one ugly turn after another. New suspicions have arisen over her allegedly unimpeded visits to the Blue House. Her free access to the presidential office seems quite credible given the allegations that she received secret government documents, including presidential speeches, from the Blue House.

If that’s the case, that means the security in the presidential compound did not work at all. We are dumbfounded that she could come and go freely — and without leaving any trace. The prosecution must dig into the case after obtaining all relevant evidence, including CCTV footage, from the Blue House.

But the prosecution says it has no plan to investigate President Park Geun-hye, citing our Constitution which states, “The president shall not be charged with a criminal offense during the tenure of office except for insurrection or treason.” However, an investigation of an incumbent president is possible when he or she is involved in a national crime, as Rep. Chong Jong-sup, one of the pro-Park group in the ruling Saenuri Party and an outstanding scholar of our Constitution, wrote in a book. The president now must declare an investigation of herself and fully cooperate with prosecutors. If she attempts to cover up the scandal by using her aides as scapegoats, it cannot but fuel the public calls for her to step down.

As we have repeatedly said, the scandal is essentially about the president’s misconduct — not about Choi’s influence-peddling — because it was the president who allowed her to read sensitive documents and wield influence over state affairs without any authority. Citizens wonder why the president did that. But Park is keeping mum following a 90-second apology without even approving the resignation of her secretaries in question.

If Park drags her feet on allowing the truth to come out, her approval rating — now hovering below 10 percent — will plunge further. She must make clear what really happened between her and Choi and how much Choi meddled in the administration. That should be explained before the appointment of a new and more powerful prime minister or the establishment of a neutral cabinet. Without her support for the truth, a new prime minister or cabinet will get no trust from the people.

A week has passed since JTBC, an affiliate of the Korea JoongAng Daily, broke open the scandal. If the president stops short of announcing an all-out probe, the country will head into one of the worst periods in its history.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 2, Page 30
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