Get to the bottom of it

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Get to the bottom of it

Suspicions have arisen that the Blue House ordered Hwang Un-ha — then chief of the Ulsan Metropolitan City police and current head of the Daejeon Metropolitan City police — to investigate former Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon three months before the June 13 local elections last year. After Hwang’s investigation of Kim’s alleged corruption, Kim lost his bid for re-election. Instead, his rival Song Cheol-ho, President Moon Jae-in’s close friend, was elected mayor. Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk — Moon’s senior secretary for civil affairs at the time — served as the head of a group supporting Song in the 2012 general elections.

The remarkable development suggests that Hwang has decided to run in the general election next year after applying for early retirement in return for the favor he offered to the Blue House. Coupled with the alleged influence peddling by the Blue House on a corruption case involving former Busan Vice Mayor Yoo Jae-soo, the latest case could evolve into a massive scandal that could critically damage the morality of the liberal administration.

After defining the case as an election-rigging campaign orchestrated by the Blue House, the opposition vows to embark on a legislative probe. Former Mayor Kim attacked the presidential office for manipulating public opinion by abusing its powers and demanded the arrest of Hwang and other figures. In reaction, the Blue House said it had not ordered any investigation of individual cases. Hwang also explained that he only received related information from the police headquarters.

Given the contradictory statements by both parties, the responsibility to find the truth falls on the prosecution. The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is looking into the lead-up to Hwang’s investigation of Kim. Coincidently, Hwang raided Mayor Kim’s office on March 16, the very day he was nominated for re-election by the opposition Liberty Korea Party. But in May — one month before the local election — the Ulsan police referred the case to the prosecution. After nine months of investigation, the prosecution cleared Kim of all charges.

The prosecution has confirmed that the Ulsan police received intelligence on Kim from the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, which was led by Cho Kuk at the time. The prosecution also found that Hwang had pressured an investigation team to get to the bottom of the case. The success of democracy depends on how fair and just an election process is. The Blue House and pro-Moon forces must not obstruct the prosecution’s probe of the latest case.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 28, Page 38
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