No surprise that Choo was clearedThe prosecution found no illegalities in wrapping up its investigation into allegations that the son of Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae received special treatment in his use of medical leave during military service.
It concluded that her son got an extension on sick leave through the legitimate procedures, and that Choo, who had been a ruling party chair, has never attempted to exert undue influence.
Her aide called the military on her behalf to “inquire” whether the extension was granted and not to “demand” a special favor. The officer on duty who got the call mistakenly reported on the possible AWOL because he was not aware of the extension was already granted.
The scenario was well expected. But with the pardoning of Choo’s son, aides or secretaries of politicians can now feel free to ask for special favors if they “inquire” about the arrangement to extend leave or change their service location.
They just have to avoid “asking” or “beseeching” to avoid charges. Those in high places now can freely have their aides make “inquiring” calls to military officials.
From the rationale of the defense ministry and prosecution for Choo’s son, soldiers can have their agents simply notify the military if they wish to use longer leave. The soldiers were wrong to believe that they had to report back for duty and then seek extra days off if necessary.
The prosecution has dilly-dallied on the investigation for six months. It only embarked on questioning in June. The head of the case at the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office did not even include the testimony of receiving a call from an aide of Choo in the report.
The official was later promoted to head the district office. He returned to lead the case even when a new investigation team was formed on the case involving Choo’s son.
Choo ignored calls to form a neutral team on the case. If there was no wrongdoing, she should have left the case to a new team deemed neutral.
The controversy inevitably would continue. The opposition would demand a special investigation and the ruling party would fight it. If the case is closed, it could one day be revisited and cited as a study of how partial the government and prosecution can be when a case involves government officials.