Stop obstructing investigations

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Stop obstructing investigations

 The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has lambasted the prosecution for its launch of a probe into the government’s interference to fabricate the economic evaluation on the Wolseong-1 reactor to justify the decommissioning of the oldest nuclear reactor two years ahead of the end of its life span. It accuses the prosecution of “political behavior,” but the DP is suspected of trying to stop the investigation to preempt any liabilities if wrongdoings are found.

Daejeon District Prosecutors’ Office last week carried out a raid on the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Energy, Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power and Korea Gas. DP Chairman Lee Nak-yon attacked the move for being a “political investigation and abuse of prosecution power.” DP floor leader Kim Tae-nyeon expressed regrets about “the prosecution’s intervention in state affairs.”

The party has become heated over the affair because it regards the prosecution’s probe as vengeful. It also believes the prosecution must not interfere with the execution of a presidential campaign pledge to phase out nuclear energy regardless of procedural problems.

However, the investigation is not on nuclear reactors or the administration’s phase-out policy. The Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI)’s audit report described a methodical state interference. An official from the Energy Ministry sneaked into his office on Sunday night and deleted 440 related files so that they cannot be traced by the BAI. The process on fabricating the results of economic evaluation was also detailed out. Such acts should never have been committed by government officials. Under the BAI Act, the deeds amount to interference with state auditing and a criminal act of abusing power. Illegalities cannot be justified just because they were part of key government policies. Overseas resource development projects by the government under former President Lee Myung-bak faced investigations due to wrongdoings and illegalities.

The DP is finding fault with the prosecution’s probe for its launch at the request of the opposition party, although the BAI has not filed charges. However, during a parliamentary questioning, Choi Jae-hyung, BAI chief, said that BAI auditors agreed that criminality could be discovered through further investigation. The BAI has handed over 700 pages of reference materials in addition to its report to the prosecution, which is more or less an act of referring the case to the prosecution. The court also allowed the prosecution to raid and search the three government organizations.

The DP may go beyond verbal attacks. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae ordered a special inspection on Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. She could invoke her authority to command the investigation herself or seek to stop it by transferring prosecutors on the investigation team to other places. But the more the party overreacts, the more suspicion will grow.

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