Wrong targets, wrong methods

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Wrong targets, wrong methods

In Monday’s meeting with his senior secretaries, President Moon Jae-in made remarks that seemed to blame past administrations for a lot of real estate shenanigans that took place under his administration. Regarding land purchases by Korea Land and Housing Corporation (LH) employees with inside information, Moon said, “That’s a problem our politics could not solve for a long time.” He insisted on rooting out “past evils of real estate speculation” through the “candlelight vigils which led to the launch of the Moon administration.”

Moon urged politicians not to take advantage of the scandal for political gain. His comment sounded weird as he set the frame of “correcting the past evils” instead of taking responsibility for the scandal. On Sunday, former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae joined the bandwagon pointing a finger at the prosecution for leaving such corruption unattended.

Now that the scandal has gotten out of control, both the government and ruling Democratic Party (DP) are busy excusing themselves and making one senseless remarks after another. On Monday, current Justice Minister Park Beom-kye, all of a sudden, ordered heads of the High Prosecutors’ Offices across the country to participate in a meeting to find ways to address the scandal. Despite the need for a justice minister to take such a drastic action in the absence of the prosecutor general, the format — and intention — of the meeting can hardly get the public’s support.

The prosecution wonders if such a meeting hosted by a justice minister is aimed at using prosecutors as some sort of sidekicks after the government deprived them of their rights to investigate cases about real estate misdeeds. The justice minister even skipped acting Prosecutor General Cho Nam-kwan and directly ordered top prosecutors to attend the meeting.

Minister Park reportedly plans to set up an investigation team inside the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to help another investigation unit led by the police under its National Investigation Headquarters. According to Park’s plan, prosecutors are supposed to play subsidiary roles such as indicting suspects. Could such a strange mix of law enforcement officers be effective? Without a full-fledged investigation led by a prosecution with expertise in such types of crime, the Moon administration cannot get to the bottom of anything.

A normal government would not take such a strange approach to tackle a massive scandal. If prosecutors cannot exercise their investigative rights from the beginning, how can a probe be successful? The government has just taken one more step to neuter the prosecution. Who would sympathize with that government?
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