Making matters worsePresident Moon Jae-in vented at former President Lee Myung-bak for accusing him of pursuing a political vendetta for the death of his longtime friend and former boss, Roh Moo-hyun. His spokesman, Park Soo-hyun, said the president was angry that Lee mentioned the death of late President Roh to connect to the ongoing corruption investigation on Lee’s aides.
In a press statement, Lee attacked Moon for using the prosecution as a political instrument to crush the conservative front and avenge Roh’s death. In his statement, Moon claimed Lee “insulted the administration” by accusing it of using the prosecution in that way.
He scorned Lee for his impropriety as a former president by defaming the judiciary order.
Former President Chun Doo Hwan spoke to the press in the streets in protest against the prosecution probe by President Kim Young-sam.
But since then, we have not seen such an exchange of harsh words from former and incumbent presidents. Former President Kim Dae-jung, for example, did not even respond when his predecessor, Kim Young-sam, accused him of running the country like a dictatorship.
Moon’s direct and strong lashing out at the former president therefore has not been prudent. The Blue House can deny that it was pulling the strings of a prosecution probe. But the president need not answer to the accusation as such a move can send the wrong message to the prosecution.
In his memoir, Moon had accused Lee of political retaliation against key figures in the Roh administration. He said the people and companies associated with Roh and himself, as well as the restaurants he frequented, faced tax audits. Lee could therefore reasonably conclude that the prosecution probe, now stretching beyond the former Park Geun-hye administration to him, is an act of revenge. Still, Lee was indecent to accuse Moon of going after him for Roh’s death.
If present and past political powers clash, we cannot expect cooperation in the National Assembly. Regardless of the result, one side won’t be happy about the findings. The presidents are not helping to ease the division between the liberal and conservative parties with their public wrangling.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 19, Page 30