A pitiful scapegoatingPolice have wrapped up the investigation on former Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu after five months of dragging its feet despite testimonies and evidence of Lee hurling insults and assaulting a cab driver in November. The police found that he bribed the driver to destroy evidence, while filing for a prosecutorial indictment. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency also handed over a police sergeant at Seocho Police to the prosecution for neglect of duty as he failed to seize the black-box footage after confirming the assault and reporting it to his boss. The chief of the Seocho Police and the sergeant’s boss was aware that Lee was a choice to head the new Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, but the police decided to discuss the matter in an internal review without filing any charges, citing a lack of evidence. Only one police sergeant is taking the fall for treating the case as a “simple assault.”
Seocho Police explained that it could not confirm involvement by the upper hierarchy or any order to cover up the case. That raises suspicion. According to the findings, a staff on the public safety division of the Seocho Police reported the incident to the intelligence division of the police and to the public safety division of the Seoul Metropolitan Police. The Seocho Police chief was also briefed that the assaulter was an influential person. Still, internal investigators claimed that they could not find any evidence of wrongdoings.
Police said guidelines for internal investigations will be strenghtened. But under current police rules, internal investigations on influential persons must be reported to the upper ranks. Under criminal investigation rules, crimes of senior government officials and lawyers are categorized as key cases that require reporting to — and receiving orders from — the higher ups. The affair should be reported to the police outpost head, district office chief, and metropolitan or provisional agency chief as well as the head of the National Investigation Headquarters. Police are blaming the lax regulations to protect the higher ranks.
President Moon Jae-in has appointed Lee as vice justice minister after the internal investigation was wrapped up. If the appointment was made because the police finding has not reached the presidential office, there is a serious flaw in the presidential office’s candidate screening process. Or if the appointment was made regardless of awareness on his wrongdoing, the government has deceived the people. The truth will inevitably come out.