Keep politics out of Ulsan probeThe investigation into the alleged Blue House meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election has come under renewed attention after public interest died down after Im Jong-seok, former chief of staff to President Moon Jae-in, was questioned in January.
The Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office announced it has arrested a former campaign chief for Song Cheol-ho, a close friend of Moon elected as Ulsan mayor in June 2018, on suspicion of receiving 30 million won ($24,210) from a used car dealer. Prosecutors suspect the money could have been used for political purposes and even illicit hiring under Song city administration.
The development suggests the prosecution has not closed the case but may have paused to avoid influencing the April 15 general election. The prosecution has questioned 40 to 50 people to build up its case. Many of the witnesses have been reportedly making up excuses to avoid summoning. But allegations of election meddling and favoritism cannot go unanswered.
Prosecutors in February highlighted the seriousness of the case, saying it undermines the foundation of democracy while indicting Song and 13 former and active Blue House employees. Just because the ruling party won big in the parliamentary election last month, it cannot be pardoned for past election wrongdoings.
Institutions under the Ulsan city government are accused of trading political donations for jobs. But suspects are hiding behind political power to avoid a criminal investigation and trial. If questions remain, the case would require a special prosecutor and re-investigation by the prosecution.
The prosecution must carry out the investigation thoroughly so that no questions linger. It must not try to patch up the case at a certain level because its chief Yoon Seok-yeol has lost favor with the ruling power. The ruling party would launch a new anti-corruption investigation bureau in the second half and aim at the prosecution first. The opposition won’t come to the defense of the prosecution if prosecutors are unable to make convincing arguments about the Ulsan case.
It’s best to stick to law and principles over a highly controversial political issue. The people do not want to believe the prosecutor-general and the head of the Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office are at odds over the Ulsan case. The prosecution leadership must not let political considerations affect the case. The Ministry of Justice led by politician-turned-minister Choo Mi-ae also must stop meddling in the investigation.