Suspicions still standRuling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung faced a heavy grilling about his connection to the Daejang-dong land development project at a National Assembly hearing on the Gyeonggi provincial government led by Lee. Despite the bombardment of queries, not many of the allegations have been clarified. Opposition lawmakers accused Lee of masterminding the project apparently designed to favor his acquaintances, but Lee denied all suspicions.
Lee admitted he had authorized the project as the mayor of Seongnam. But he said he only directed the project to generate and ensure profit, and did not get involved in sharing the profit among private contractors. He attacked Hwacheon Daeyu, an asset management company at the center of the scandal, for profiteering from the project.
Opposition lawmakers inquired about the governor’s relationship with Yoo Dong-gyu — former acting president of the Seongnam Development Corporation — who was arrested for bribery and breach of trust, and Kim Man-bae, a major shareholder of Hwacheon Daeyu, without presenting strong evidence to back up their suspicions. Lee also denied knowing Nam Wook, a lawyer who had been arrested at the airport after arriving from the U.S.
The suspicion of favoritism also was not clarified, due partly to the provincial government’s refusal to submit related document to lawmakers.
The opposition People Power Party (PPP) raised suspicions about Lee receiving 2 billion won ($1.7 million) from a gang. The PPP presented a testimony from a gang member currently behind bars and suspected that a relationship between Lee and the group dates back to 2007. When a picture of a pile of cash appeared in the testimony, Lee laughed and said he would not be in his current position if there was any truth to the accusation.
Lee did not lose his patience during the grilling, but his attitude lacked modesty and sincerity. He smirked and sneered at accusations.
PPP lawmakers made accusations without strong evidence. Won Hee-ryong, the former Jeju governor, reported that just 1 percent of viewers thought the PPP lawmakers had done well in the questioning. The truth must be investigated by the prosecution and the police. Lee opposes the appointment of a special prosecutor as “it will only prolong political wrangling.” But if the investigation by law enforcement agencies is lacking, an independent counsel must step in.