Digging up suspicionsThe Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) has gained impetus in its investigation into criminal charges against former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a front-running presidential candidate of the opposition People Power Party (PPP), over power abuse when he was top prosecutor. The CIO restored the records of phone conversations between Cho Sung-eun, then a senior member of the United Future Party (UFP), a predecessor of the PPP, and Rep. Kim Woong, an aide to the top prosecutor and a legislative candidate for the UFP at the time.
In the transcript of the conversation, Kim, a former prosecutor, requested Cho last year to file the complaints against key figures close to the ruling Democratic Party (DP) with the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office and later with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. The record backs Cho’s claim that Kim had asked her to file the complaint with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office commanded by the prosecutor general in order to circumvent Lee Sung-yoon, then chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, who is loyal to President Moon Jae-in. It is unclear how the criminal complaints were eventually filed against the key figures close to the ruling party — and exactly who ordered the documents to be drawn up.
Such questions should be answered through further investigation. Rep. Kim must explain what conversation he had with Cho in the two phone calls. Kim could have orchestrated the smear campaign, or at least played a big role in it. He said he “cannot remember” the two conversations after the event was exposed by whistleblower Cho in her 30s.
The CIO has also embarked on an investigation of Park Jie-won, National Intelligence Service director, for the suspicion of orchestrating the exposure on former Prosecutor General Yoon. Before the affair was reported in the media, Park had a secret meeting with Cho, now working for the ruling party, in a hotel in August to raise suspicion about his collusion on the exposure.
The CIO has started to investigate top spy Park 22 days after a complaint against him was filed by the PPP. Another suspicion is raised over why Cho has not been charged at all. The CIO must prove neutrality to convince the people of the results of its investigation. Park also must fully cooperate with the investigation and explain the exact purpose of his meetings with Cho.