Stop privileged interrogations

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Stop privileged interrogations

Chung Kyung-sim, the wife of controversial Justice Minister Cho Kuk, stayed in prosecutors’ office for about 15 hours to be interrogated on her potential involvement in many allegations against her and her family when she was summoned to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office for the second time last weekend. Except for two hours and 40 minutes of interrogation, she spent most of the time taking a rest and having meals. She did the same when she was first summoned two days before. She answered questions from prosecutors for five hours while she stayed there for eight hours. That’s not all. She returned home citing health reasons even without signing her written statement. If such a travesty continues, no one knows how many more times the prosecution will be forced to summon her.

We have never seen such special treatment given to criminal suspects, including sons of former and incumbent presidents, a former chief justice, chairmen of conglomerates and retired generals. That’s why a newly coined phrase — “emperor-like interrogation” — has appeared. If Chung were not Justice Minister Cho’s wife — and if the liberal camp did not earnestly protect her — she could not have received such privileges.

The prosecutors’ rush to interrogate suspects has nothing to do with disrespecting their human rights. Prosecutors want a speedy investigation to prevent suspects from destroying evidence or conspiring with involved parties. Despite her claims of ill health, Chung should have refused such special treatment as the wife of the justice minister. How can the prosecution deal with other suspects that say they want to go home because they feel poorly as Chung did?

Even though prosecutors have been probing her case in a strange way, lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party attacked senior prosecutors, who appeared in the National Assembly’s regular government audit session Monday, for conducting an “excessive probe.” Rep. Kim Jong-min even contended that the prosecution has never exercised its rights as much before in our history. We ask him if any government ever stepped in to influence an investigation as the Moon Jae-in administration has — except under dictatorships.

The ruling party’s reaction is no different from demanding an end to investigations of criminal charges involving their members. Lawmakers must not deviate from common sense: any criminal suspicions should be investigated by the prosecution and the perpetrators punished if convicted.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 8, Page 30
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