Bringing them to justiceDespite a multitude of corruption allegations involving figures implicated with the Moon Jae-in government over the last four years, not a single case has been thoroughly probed. There have been charges of the Blue House meddling in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election, government interference to manipulate the economic evaluation on the Wolseong nuclear plant Unit 1, and an illegitimate travel ban on former Vice Justice minister Kim Hak-eui.
Despite the controversial nature of these cases, the behaviors of law enforcement authorities in the investigation, indictment and trial process raise questions if they have any will to investigate and punish the wrongdoings. A trial on the case of illegality behind the Ulsan mayoral election was held for the first time on Monday, 14 months after the prosecution indicted suspects. In January last year, the prosecution had indicted 13 people, including Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho, Han Byung-do, former senior presidential secretary for political affairs, and Baek Won-woo, former presidential secretary for civil affairs.
The first trial opened only after Lee Jin-seok, presidential secretary for state affairs monitoring, was indicted last month. Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae was also accused of trying to interfere with the investigation by demoting the prosecutors in the case.
Lee Sung-yoon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, received overt protection from the government after he was named a suspect in influencing an illegal travel ban on former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui. Top prosecutor Lee has often acted to defend the people on the ruling front from prosecutorial probes. Although he has lost confidence from the top law enforcement agency, his name came up as a candidate for the next prosecutor general. Despite his call for an outside review to stop the case against him, a review board nevertheless approved of the prosecution’s decision to indict Lee.
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has recently ordered heads of local prosecutors’ offices to report on their progress in investigations involving the ruling power. The move raises suspicion that the top office may be trying to wind up politically-sensitive cases before the confirmation hearing for Kim Oh-soo, nominee for prosecutor general. Kim has recently been accused of earning 29 million won ($26,020) in monthly consultancy fees since he resigned as a vice justice minister.
President Moon now has only a year left in his term. Any move to evade liability could backfire. The cases must be administered strictly based on the findings and law.