Democracy at stake

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Democracy at stake

The prosecution has announced that a number of aides to President Moon Jae-in are suspected of having methodically intervened in the Ulsan mayoral election last year. The announcement reminds us of authoritarian governments in our past. We learned an important lesson in the past that political power dominated by self-righteousness and arrogance will perish — or thought we did.

In a weekly meeting with Lee Seong-yun, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl instructed him to indict 13 Blue House staff — including Baek Won-woo, former presidential secretary for civil affairs, and Park Hyung-cheol, former anticorruption secretary — on charges of violating the Public Servants Election Act. Lee, who has been reluctant to indict them, could not help complying with the order from his immediate boss.

The question is why Moon’s aides were engrossed with helping the president’s close friend, Song Cheol-ho, win the mayoral race so ardently. The public suspects that Moon’s aides intervened in the election to demonstrate their loyalty to the president. Moon had said at one point, “My only wish is Song’s election as Ulsan mayor.”

What attracts our attention are the results of the prosecution’s investigations of Lee Kwang-cheol, a former secretary for civil affairs, and Im Jong-seok, Moon’s former chief of staff. Lee was arraigned Wednesday and Im plans to go to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office Thursday to answer questions from prosecutors. Attacking the prosecution’s probe for being a “politically-engineered” investigation, Im went on to claim that “some prosecutors, including Prosecutor General Yoon, are approaching the case with political purposes.” That is sheer sophistry.

The investigation will be handed over to new prosecutors after the reshuffle of the top law enforcement agency led by Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae. We urge a new investigation team to properly deal with the case. The public looks forward to seeing our democracy take a step forward. They don’t want to see a retreat of our democracy in the hands of another stubborn — and authoritarian-minded — government.

We also urge Choo to refrain from putting pressure on the prosecution. We vividly witnessed the surprising double standards shared by the self-proclaimed clean administration after the breaking of the scandal involving former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. The Blue House itself should be dirt-free as Moon repeatedly underscored in the past.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 30, Page 30
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