Here comes the mudOn May 25, ruling Democratic Party (DP) leader Song Young-gil said his party was preparing a number of explosive files on former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. In reaction, Yoon told Song to bring it on, urging the DP to disclose files against him — if they are true. “Any one must be investigated and go through a trial if needed. My family is no exception,” he said. Then, a political commentator from the opposition camp fueled the controversy by making bombshell remarks. “After I looked into the X-file on Yoon, I thought he will have trouble being chosen by the people [in the next presidential election],” he commented.
A negative campaign can be a “necessary evil” in elections as it helps rally support around a political camp while making people on the other side start to wonder about their candidates’ qualifications. Negative campaigns can help shed light on candidates’ moral standards. But such campaigns must not cross a line. In the 2002 presidential election, a ruling party surrogate accused the opposition’s presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang of helping his son dodge military duty. The accusation helped the DP win, but the allegation proved wrong. The DP resorted to similar tactics in the April 7 mayoral by-election in Seoul, but in that case it didn’t help the party’s candidate win. That’s a sad legacy from the past.
The so-called “X-file” on Yoon raises serious questions about the motives behind it. When the opposition People Power Party (PPP) raised many suspicions over Prosecutor General nominee Yoon during his confirmation hearing in 2019, the DP refuted them and fully endorsed his nomination. But since Yoon started to find dirt on the powers that be after his appointment, the DP began to attack him and allegedly pressured the prosecution and the new Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) to probe possible corruption by Yoon and his family.
An opposition lawmaker held the DP and government accountable for the “intervention by state agencies” to deliver sensitive information on Yoon to the ruling camp, suggesting possible government involvement in producing the dossier against Yoon. In a suspicious turn of events, the prosecution raised additional suspicions about his mother-in-law Tuesday.
Whenever suspicion arose over the government’s possible surveillance of private citizens, it has insisted it does not have “any genes for spying on innocent citizens.” Can it still say the same? If it really has a dossier on Yoon, it must disclose it. Otherwise, the government and the DP cannot avoid criticism for trying to spread conspiracy theories for political gains. People are watching.