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Ahn Cheol-soo, former presidential candidate of the People’s Party, said he felt responsible for the dirty tactics that members of his party used to smear the reputation of his opponent Moon Jae-in and his son during the last presidential election. He said he would take time to reflect upon himself with “all options” open to take responsible action. He said he would comply with the prosecution’s probe if he has to. His public apology came after the leadership of the party formerly acknowledged the foul play of using a phony audio file to defame the Moon Jae-in camp on May 5, just days before the election.

But Ahn fell short of clearly explaining himself. He said the biggest fault was the leadership’s slackness in checking the facts. But his party has a number of lawmakers who used to be veteran state prosecutors. Moreover, Lee Jun-suh, Ahn’s ally and a member of the party’s former decision-making body, is under pretrial detention at the request of prosecutors despite the party’s claim that the deed was a solo act by Lee Yu-mi.

The prosecution must investigate how high and far the party had been involved in the dirty campaigning. The party also should cooperate fully with the prosecution probe.

The People’s Party remains more defensive than remorseful for the scandal. Park Joo-sun, the interim chief of the party, accused the prosecution of acting on behalf of the ruling party head Choo Mi-ae in a political vendetta when they arrested Lee. Both parties should stop the bickering, leave the affair up to the judiciary, and go back to their own work.

The People’s Party should immediately return to the National Assembly. The ruling Democratic Party also should seek its cooperation instead of cornering the smaller party. It is not wise for the head of the ruling party to worsen the conflict when there is still no clear evidence that the leadership had been involved in the smear campaign.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 13, Page 34
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