Commission asks for probe into rape scandalA special commission under the Ministry of Justice recommended Monday afternoon that the prosecution reopen an investigation into a former deputy justice minister’s involvement in a major sex scandal six years ago.
The commission’s decision was made on the basis of a probe by a fact-finding team staffed by prosecutors into suspicions that former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui attended a number of parties in 2013 that were thrown by a contractor who hired women to have sex with high-profile figures to gain business favors. That scandal evolved into a drug-and-rape case when a woman claimed that she was drugged, raped and videotaped by Kim and the contractor, Yun Jung-cheon.
Kim served as the No. 2 official in the Justice Ministry for six days during the Park Geun-hye administration in March 2013 before he resigned over the allegations. The launch of the new prosecutorial probe could discover why the investigation into the former deputy minister failed to yield any charges despite a litany of evidence presented by the police at the time.
Before he opened a meeting Monday afternoon to decide whether to seek a probe, the commission’s interim chief, Jung Han-joong, issued a rare public rebuke to Kim for allegedly trying to flee the country early Saturday morning before he was stopped by authorities.
“Our people, even sitting judges, actively cooperated with your [prosecutors’] investigations [in the past] despite not being legally compelled to do so,” Jung said in reference to Kim. “But how can a former senior prosecutor refuse to collaborate with our committee’s investigation and try to leave the country at midnight?
“Who do you think our people are?” he added, thanking the Justice Ministry’s officials for successfully preventing Kim from boarding his flight to Thailand on Saturday.
The largest concern that surrounds the reopening of Kim’s case is the statute of limitations, given that the five-year limit on prosecuting the sex-for-favors allegations has already expired. While an aggravated rape charge, which has a 15-year statute, could be pinned on Kim, analysts say attempts to prove such accusations in other cases have rarely been successful.
Yet throughout their five interrogations sessions of the other prime suspect in the case - Yun - the team obtained his testimony that Yun furnished Kim with cash, as well as sexual favors, providing the basis for a corruption charge. The team told the commission on Monday they would focus on the corruption allegation.
The team also found evidence of a widespread effort by top officials in the Park Geun-hye administration to obstruct the initial investigation into Kim’s case by police and prosecutors in 2013. According to a police source who took part in the investigation at the time, the Park Blue House allegedly put pressure on top police to suppress the case on multiple occasions, even undertaking a massive reshuffle in the police leadership to undermine its progress. The commission also recommended investigations into Park’s former chief aides at the Blue House over possible obstruction of justice.
With a renewed probe into the case almost certain, a heated argument ensued at the National Assembly on Monday regarding the case in which the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the progressive Justice Party’s lawmakers called for a special counsel probe into the case that would be free of influence from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, where Kim once presided as an influential figure. DP floor leader Hong Young-pyo also said that the new chairman of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, Hwang Kyo-ahn, should also be subject to an investigation. Hwang was the sole superior to Kim in the Justice Ministry in 2013 and could be complicit in suppressing the probe as the former justice minister.
Current Justice Minister Park Sang-ki told YTN last week also said he was leaving the possibility of a special counsel investigation open, perhaps by invoking a law that would only require the justice minister and president to sign off on the probe without the need for legislative approval.
BY SHIM KYU-SEOK [firstname.lastname@example.org]