Wake up, prosecutorsPresident Park Geun-hye last week promised to cooperate fully with the prosecution’s probe into various allegations about her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil and her role in state management. But whether the truth can be uncovered remains doubtful, given how careful the prosecution has been to not upset the president.
The prosecution pledged to get to the bottom of the scandal. But progress has been disappointing. When charges were pressed against Choi on Sept. 29, the case was referred to the criminal department instead of the special investigation department. After the president ordered strict investigations into allegations of abuse at the two foundations created on her behalf last month, the prosecution hurriedly added two extra investigators. It formed a special investigating team only after the president issued her first apology a few days later. The investigation team only grew after the president apologized a second time. As a result, prosecutors lost the precious time to gather strong evidence and gave time for the suspects to coordinate their testimonies.
The prosecution charged Choi and An Chong-bum, former senior presidential secretary for policy coordination, on abuse of power instead of bribery attempts. It is suspected of having given legal leeway to the president. Because Choi was not immediately summoned after returning from overseas last month, she was able to withdraw a large sum from her bank account and form a team of lawyers.
The prosecution also did not follow up on the investigation after the release of a taped conversation in which former senior presidential secretary for economic affairs Cho Won-dong pressed Lee Mie-kyung, vice chairman of CJ Group, to step down from management.
Prosecutors don’t even have a plan despite increasing calls for an immediate indictment of Cho. The prosecution appears to be sticking to the small number of people who have been related to the scandal.
The prosecution has lost the public’s confidence to the extent that some even believe the food delivered to Choi carry messages from outside the cell. There is also a rumor that the person behind bars may not be Choi. Some already are demanding the prosecution become subject to investigation by an independent counsel.
The prosecution must be aware that it too could invite public rage if it continues to merely follow the orders of the president and her office that have lost all ethical authority and legitimacy.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 7, Page 34