Public sentiment set to explode
The author is a columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
Associates of President Moon Jae-in, who have removed almost all allies of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, share three common factors. Their signature character concerns sophistry, unfairness and brazen-faced attitude.
Sophistry is a signature of some people like Rhyu Si-min. Rhyu once argued that a criminal suspect’s actions to destroy evidence were actions to preserve evidence. His fallacious arguments often cause headaches for ordinary people.
Unfairness is a character shared by people such as National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, who allowed the ruling party and its legislative allies to railroad contentious bills concerning the budget plan, election law revision and establishment of a new investigative agency for senior public servants.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae replaced the prosecutors in charge of investigations into the Moon administration with her allies, as she failed to stop Yoon’s will to go after the corruptions of Moon allies. She even changed regulations and ordinances to please the administration, becoming a classic example of unfairness. Moon abused his authority as the speaker of the legislature, which is supposed to be bipartisan, and Choo abused her right to make appointments of the prosecution in order to please the administration.
There is an old saying that “the thief turns on the master with a club.” Choe Kang-wook, presidential secretary for civil service discipline, and Im Jong-seok, former presidential chief of staff, suspected of having influenced the Ulsan mayoral election are the thieves in the story.
On his way to submit to the prosecution’s questioning last week, Im issued a lesson to Yoon. “I hope the prosecution is more upright and proper […] I want the prosecution to think about why it is losing the public trust, as if water is disappearing between its fingers,” he said.
It seemed like an arrival of a new sacred and inviolable class with privileges, where criminal suspects are capable of threatening law enforcers. Voters are increasingly deciding that they need to stop this new class that is living a life above the law. Sophistry, unfairness and the brazen-faced attitude of Moon’s associates are about to make public sentiment explode.
Im made an incorrect calculation. It was not the prosecution that is losing the public trust, but the administration. When Im declared that he is a member of the new sacred and inviolable class on Jan. 30, a Segye Ilbo’s opinion poll showed that Yoon was ranked second by the voters to be elected the next president. Moon’s approval rating, in contrast, plummeted to 41 percent and the ruling Democratic Party to 34 percent, according to a Gallup Korea poll on Feb. 1. The figures are the lowest since Moon took office.
Yoon will not start a political career. It is not a normal country where a prosecutor general decides to run for presidency. Therefore, it is inappropriate to include him as a candidate of such a poll. But the Moon administration must seriously think about why the public desires Yoon so earnestly.
Over the past decade, Yoon’s decisions and choices were extremely fair and strict, earning him the nickname “cruel justice.” He was particularly strict on people with high-handed power and wealth. The people loved him. They passionately welcomed Yoon’s common sense, fairness and principle of rule of law. The Moon administration once praised Yoon’s goodness, but then it turned in the opposite direction. But the people increasingly sent their support to Yoon. It is undesirable to see a political structure that demand’s Yoon’s participation — it doesn’t benefit Yoon himself, this administration or the country.
Moon and other members of the administration are about to arrest all prosecutors who had investigated this administration including Yoon once the new investigation agency is launched on July 1.
They appeared to be surrounded by the fears that they will end up in prison if they don’t. Choe had once shared some parts of the plan. If such situation actually unfolds, the country will face a crisis amounting to a civil war.
The Moon administration must not force Yoon to start politics.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 3, Page 30