Special prosecutor soon?In a debate hosted by an association of veteran journalists on Wednesday, ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung expressed a willingness to accept an investigation into the Daejang-dong development scandal by a special prosecutor — with strings attached. He acknowledged the need to find the truth behind the suspicions surrounding the development project he approved when he was Seongnam mayor. He said he would accept a probe by an independent counsel “after the prosecution finishes its investigation.”
Lee has changed his position as many people still have doubts about the project. Polls show that nearly 60 percent of respondents want a probe by a special prosecutor. But Lee added that he would accept the investigation if a special prosecutor also looks into alleged favoritism his rival Yoon Seok-youl — the presidential candidate of the opposition People Power Party (PPP) — offered suspects in a corruption case involving Busan Bank when he was a prosecutor. Lee also wanted a special prosecutor to investigate cases involving the PPP, including hefty severance pay given the son of Rep. Kwak Sang-do from an asset management company at the center of the Daejang-dong scandal.
It is unclear if the PPP would accept the counterproposal from Lee. Yoon proposed that a special prosecutor investigate both the Daejang-dong scandal and the allegation that he attempted to help the PPP by ordering his aides to file criminal complaints against political figures close to the DP when was prosecutor general. Lee rejected his proposal, saying a special investigation into suspicions over Yoon and his family only helps the probe get protracted. The PPP also attacked Lee, former Gyeonggi Governor, for trying to “help the prosecution delay its investigation of the Daejang-dong scandal” until the March 9 presidential election.
A special prosecutor’s investigation seems unavoidable. In the early stages of its investigation, the prosecution allowed a key suspect in the scandal to leave the country. In the meantime, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) is being criticized for bias in its investigation of Yoon’s alleged command to file the criminal complaints. The PPP must negotiate with the DP over the appointment of a special prosecutor to help the public judge the moral standards of the two candidates.
At the same time, Yoon must prove his sincerity in actions, not words, after he visited Gwangju, South Jeolla, Wendesday to apologize for his insensitive remarks about the general-turned-president Chun Doo Hwan. He stirred controversy by praising the way Chun governed the country, except for the military coup he led in 1979 and the Gwangju massacre the following year. In yesterday’s visit to the May 18th National Cemetery in the city, Yoon said, “The sad history of Gwangju became the proud history of Korea.” We hope his words are true.