Showing some gutsThe prosecution has begun writing up indictments against Choi Soon-sil, controversial friend of President Park Geun-hye, An Chong-bum, former presidential secretary for policy coordination, and Jeong Ho-seong, a personal secretary for Park for 18 years. It plans to bring criminal charges by Sunday, upsetting an earlier plan to question the president before the indictments. Park delayed the face-to-face interrogation to next week.
The prosecution said it would decide on pressing charges on the president after making an “objective and reasonable” judgment based on the testimony and evidence so far. It added that the president could be either a critical witness in the case — or a criminal suspect.
The findings so far point to the president as the dead center of an ocean of allegations of power abuse by her inner circle. Park is the central piece of the puzzle concerning the behavior of the three people being indicted. Yet the president keeps repeating that as head of state she has immunity from criminal prosecution. That was the rationale behind her delaying of face-to-face questioning. The president must comply with the probe next week.
Kim Chong, former vice minister for culture and sports, testified to prosecutors that he replaced a director general at the ministry in July 2013 because the president was displeased with him. Cho Won-dong, former senior secretary for economic affairs, said he pressed CJ Group vice chair Lee Mie-kyung to resign from management and leave the country on the order of the president. It is unthinkable in a modern democracy for a president to sack a bureaucrat and force a corporate executive out of office on a whim.
Prosecutors have lost respect for dragging their feet on the probe, which has basically forced the legislature to form an independent counselor team to reinvestigate the case. The prosecutors have about 10 days to find evidence to charge the president. They must not be intimidated by a president desperately fighting to retain power. The prosecution should mention the suspicions around the president when writing up charges against her friend and two aides. It need not be discreet or overly delicate. In fact, the opposite is an imperative: the prosecution must prove it still has guts.
JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 19, Page 30