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Not over yet


Lee Ha-kyung
The author is the editor in chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

The late Kang Han-ok, mother of President Moon Jae-in, prayed for her son during difficult times. When Moon was arrested after leading a protest as a university student to oppose the dictatorship of Park Chung Hee, Kang shouted her son’s name and followed the police car on foot. “There are some times that I made her happy and proud, but there are more times that I made her worry,” Moon recalled.

Kwak Nack-won, the late mother of Kim Koo, was also a great mother. When Kim was arrested after killing a Japanese man in colonial days believing he was a Japanese army lieutenant involved in the assassination of the last Korean queen, she accompanied her son to the prison in Incheon. It was a tragic journey that was supposed to end with the execution of her 21-year-old only son. “Let’s jump into the water so we can be together even after we die,” the mother told her only son when the boat carrying them was passing Ganghwa Island off the coast of Incheon. The son tried to comfort his mother, saying, “As Heaven will help us, we don’t die.”

During Kim’s imprisonment, Kwak worked as a maid at a broker’s house. She sent three meals a day to her son in prison to keep him alive. Although she had a husband, she was asked to marry a powerful man to save her son. After Kim broke out of the prison, she and her husband were jailed together and endured cruel punishments. Kim Chang-soo, a passionate young man, was able to be reborn as the great leader of the country Kim Koo thanks to his mother’s sacrifice.

“She probably felt her heart racing even until the last moment, as she saw her son standing at the center of turbulent politics,” Moon recalled. One way to comfort his late mother is returning to the young Moon Jae-in, who gave up a peaceful life as an ordinary man for the sake of the country’s democratization.

Moon also needs to bid farewell to the fake liberals, intoxicated with power and money.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, “Money is coined liberty.” It was a heartbreaking disclosure of a man who himself suffered poverty. What was money for Cho Kuk, a self-proclaimed defender of the weak in our society and yet a rich man who lives in Gangnam with family wealth of over 5.6 billion won ($4.8 million)? Was it a tool to bequeath privileges? The nation has faced a split after the betrayal of this rich leftist, who has secured his tangible capital based on the flickering candles of equality, fairness and justice.

For Moon to bid farewell to the fake liberals and restore a healthy democracy, he must offer a proper apology for the Cho crisis. “I am extremely sorry for having caused many conflicts among the people as a result,” Moon recently said. His ambiguous apology doesn’t say who committed what wrongdoing or why he is sorry. The apology lacked sincerity and specifics. Democratic Party Chairman Lee Hae-chan also issued an apology similar to Moon’s, and it also lacked those key points. The administration cannot calm the public’s anger with such non-apologies.

Furthermore, the Ministry of Justice announced an ordinance as a part of prosecutorial reform, although it clearly has the intention of controlling the media. The prosecutors’ attempts to look into bank accounts and search and seize mobile phones are often blocked by a court when the probe concerns Cho and his wife. The shadow of the Cho family, although he was forced to resign due to public opposition, is still tainting the rule of law.

Who can possibly trust this prosecutorial reform? The public is increasingly suspecting the plan to establish a new investigative body for senior public servants is an attempt by the president to wield influence on the prosecution. They are also suspecting that the redistribution of the investigative powers between the prosecution and the police is aimed at strengthening the police because it is easier for the administration to control.

Prosecutorial reforms of the Roh Moo-hyun administration produced an undeniable outcome — the warrant deliberation system. It is equally applied to all people. A judge meets a suspect and hears the argument under this system, and the number of wrongly detained suspects has decreased. Arrests, which weaken suspects’ defenses, are noticeably reduced, and human rights naturally improved. A reform of the criminal justice system is a good thing for everyone. But it should be separated from the Cho crisis.

A similar situation took place in Japan, and it was handled in the opposite way. Justice Minister Katsuyuki Kawai’s wife was elected to the Upper House in July. But the media reported an allegation that she paid 13 campaign staff more than what was allowed by law. A possible link to the minister was also raised. Kawai tendered his resignation on Oct. 31, the day after the report.

“I made the decision, after consulting with my wife, because public trust in the judicial administration must not be lost even for one minute or one second,” he said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also issued an apology. “I offer a sincere apology to the people. I appointed Kawai to the ministerial post. I share my responsibility,” said Abe. His attitude was completely different from Moon’s.

When the abuse of power scandal by her confidante Choi Soon-sil was reported, President Park Geun-hye shed tears and apologized. But her apology lacked sincerity and specifics, and she was forced out of the Blue House.

If Moon continues to ignore the people, he will end up denying clause 1 of Article 1 of the Constitution that defines Korea as a democratic republic. A first-term lawmaker of the ruling party who declared that he won’t seek re-election said the Cho crisis was “hell.” The people are about to take back the powers they delegated to the president.

Moon must return to his initial beliefs. He must admit he is responsible for everything because he appointed Cho as minister. That is the only way to comfort the public. The nightmare that shook the country has not ended yet.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 4, Page 31
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