Will investigations continue?LEE GA-YOUNG
The author is the head of the national 1 team of the JoongAng Ilbo.
NHK airs one historical drama every year in Japan. The historical figure that becomes the main character normally makes the news, and their popularity tends to boom. The fierce — and lonely — struggle of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol over the last 16 months could be an attractive topic for the Japanese drama. It spans a short period of time but is quite the spectacle. The two main characters would be Yoon and Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, with their many sidekicks around them. Each person has a story and confronts a common theme — “investigation into the powers that be” (Yoon) versus “Don’t even dream of investigating the power” (Choo).
On Nov. 25, ruling Democratic Party (DP) Chairman Lee Nak-yon almost emerged as a main character. Only a week ago, he said Yoon’s conduct was problematic and that Choo’s style was also a problem. But he proposed a legislative probe into the case after finding fault with Yoon’s alleged surveillance of judges. The chairman likely thought he needed to reinforce his position as a leading presidential hopeful, albeit undeclared, after his popularity faded — and he desperately needs pro-Moon votes.
Since the Cho Kuk scandal, the DP has become uncomfortable given its aspiration to take power for 20 years or longer. Yoon was favored by Moon when he was appointed prosecutor general. But he revealed his swordsmanship instinct soon. Choo has a mission to drive Yoon out, or tame him, after he started digging up dirt on the Blue House. So she pressured Yoon by exercising her right to command the top prosecutor, resuming investigations of Yoon’s family and friends and tackled his special activities expense, which “does not require receipts” by nature. But 94 percent of reporters covering the Justice Ministry negatively viewed her exercise of the investigation. The special activities expense issue spreads to Choo and Shim Jae-cheol, her ally in the ministry.
Meanwhile, the Daejeon District Prosecutors’ Office sped up its investigation into the early closing of the Wolseong-1 reactor. As things didn’t work out, Choo suspended the prosecutor general from active duty. The next day, the DP chairman came forward rebutting the top prosecutor’s unbiased investigations. His message was “How dare you investigate the active power? No way!”
Are there prosecutors dreaming of investigating the powers that be despite the message? Ironically, prosecutors want to investigate more, just like Yoon did seven years ago. At the time, Yoon was demoted because he probed the case of the National Intelligence Service’s online opinion manipulation. “Regardless of Yoon, investigations of the nuclear reactor case will continue,” said a prosecutor at Daejeon District Office.
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