A lopsided reinvestigation

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A lopsided reinvestigation

The legal yardstick must be the same for everyone. Its conclusion cannot be accepted if it applies differently to different people. Rulings have authority because people respect them. The law must therefore be enforced with clarity and singularity.

A special committee under the Ministry of Justice, which was set up to look into the past wrongdoings of the prosecution, has recommended the prosecution reopen an investigation into former Deputy Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui. The probe inevitably would have to challenge whether the prosecution’s early investigation of him in 2013 had been properly carried out. But it raises questions why the committee specifically named Rep. Kwak Sang-do of the opposition Liberty Korea Party, who served as the senior presidential secretary of civil affairs under President Park Geun-hye, and Yi Jung-hui, a former secretary of civil affairs, for having interfered with police investigation at the time.

It was neither clear nor fair to decide whom to include or not to include in the reinvestigation. The commission claimed Kwak had interfered with the police investigation by reprimanding the officers in charge or replacing the commanding officers at the police agency. The committee backed its claim with testimonies from Blue House officials and police at the time. Yet Cho Eung-cheon, a lawmaker of the ruling Democratic Party, was excluded from the reinvestigation although he had been a staff of Park Geun-hye’s Blue House team in charge of overseeing public discipline. Former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook, who was responsible for the prosecutorial probe at the time, was also not named by the committee.

The difference is that Kwak is an opposition lawmaker now and Cho a ruling party lawmaker. The committee claims there have not been enough testimonies against Cho. But Kwak, Cho and Lee all deny interfering with the police investigation. Why only two out of three men under the same condition and giving the same defense became subject to a new probe cannot be convincing. Kwak claims he has been singled out because he previously raised questions about President Moon Jae-in’s daughter and her suspicious emigration overseas.

A sex scandal involving former Deputy Justice Minister Kim is a serious problem on its own. But the investigation procedures also went critically wrong at the time. The prosecution denied all the police requests to seize, search, indict and ban Kim from leaving the country filed from March 28 to June 19, 2013. There could have been some kind of pressure from then-Prosecutor General Chae or senior offices of the prosecution. If you leave such questions unanswered, you can never correct past mistakes.

The committee must explain the grounds for its guideline on reopening old cases. The prosecution must also investigate on a fair and objective basis. It would betray the people twice if it applies double standards on the renewed investigation.

JoongAng Ilbo, March 27, Page 34
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