Show clear determinationHwang Un-ha, the police chief of Daejeon accused of taking orders from the Blue House to investigate a former Ulsan Mayor when he headed police in the port city ahead of the local elections in June last year, claimed the prosecutions’ probe against him was an “abuse of power that undermines the judiciary system.” His request of early retirement was denied as a public official under criminal investigation cannot resign from office while a probe is in progress. The opposition suspects he could have been promised of the ruling party ticket to run in the April parliamentary election for having helped to ruin the chance of former Ulsan mayor Kim Gi-hyeon winning second term by carrying out an investigation on his family and aide ahead of the campaigning period. Despite all the allegations around him, Hwang demands a special investigation into the case, questioning the fairness of the ongoing probe led by state prosecution and citing his basic civilian rights to happiness, assets, free choice in profession among others.
Under the findings so far, Baek Won-woo, then secretary to the president on civil affairs who reported to senior secretary Cho Kuk, compiled a corruption intelligence report on Kim in March, three months before the elections. The report was handed to presidential anti-corruption secretary Park Hyoung-chul who referred the case to the police. The connection suggests the Blue House’s civil affairs secretarial office had been involved in the election. Song Cheol-ho, the ruling party’s candidate for the mayoral post in Ulsan, has been a long-time friend of President Moon Jae-in who used to say his biggest wish was to see Song elected to public office. Cho Kuk headed a charity group for Song. Given the personal interest in Song, the suspicion about the Ulsan’s police involvement in the election cannot be overblown.
The prosecution discovered the legal team at the presidential secretarial office on civil affairs made additions and legal judgments on the document of compliance from a builder based in Ulsan. Two officers under Baek could have gone around to secure evidence and intelligence on the former mayor. The Blue House office was confirmed to have been regularly briefed on the investigation progress.
Noh Young-min, chief of staff, denied the accusation and said the officers went down to Ulsan upon reports that the police and prosecution in Ulsan were at odds over a case involving whale meat. The opposition laughed at his explanation. “When did whale meat become a concern of the civil affairs secretarial office?” they asked.
If law enforcement offices interfere with voters’ rights to please personal ambitions of the people in the governing power, the base of a free democracy system can be shaken. Instead of finding other excuses, the figures facing allegations must faithfully comply with the prosecution’s probe.
There has also been another report suspecting favoritism from state lender Korea Development in extending a policy loan to Wooridul Hospital run mostly by executives loyal to the Moon Jae-in administration. The liberal government is emitting smells of corruption whereas the economy is in the wrecks, foreign policy wobbly and security front unstable. If it does not want to face the doom of the former conservative government, it must show clear determination to undo the wrongs.