Appoint a special prosecutorOn Thursday, ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, former Gyeonggi governor, acknowledged the unavoidability of an investigation into the Daejang-dong land development scandal by a special prosecutor. Opposition People Power Party (PPP) candidate Yoon Seok-youl, former prosecutor general, welcomed it. He has been willing to accept a simultaneous investigation of that scandal and the allegation that he instructed a junior prosecutor to ask the PPP to file criminal complaints against the DP on the prosecution’s behalf.
Given the more than 60 percent support for a special investigation in polls, both campaigns will likely accept it. In fact, the prosecution dilly-dallied in its investigation of the development scandal from the beginning. The top law enforcement agency led by pro-government Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo dragged out the investigation.
In a weird turn of events, prosecutors’ request for an arrest warrant for Kim Man-bae, a major shareholder of Hwacheon Daeyu — an asset management company at the center of the scandal — was rejected by a court because of their half-baked justification. After Kim was detained at last for questioning, his investigation nearly came to a halt after prosecutors and investigators tested positive for Covid-19. That’s not all. Prosecutor General Kim and other senior prosecutors suddenly took a vacation in the middle of their probe.
As a result, prosecutors could not investigate a number of suspects involved in the scandal with only three days left before the period of detention for Kim Man-bae and lawyer Nam Wook is to expire on Monday. The prosecution’s investigation into the favoritism Yoon allegedly exercised during his probe of corruption at the Busan Savings Bank also stalled.
The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) is no exception. Since its launch in January, the new law enforcement body has shown a very poor performance, as evidenced by a court’s denial of its first request for arrest warrants. The contact between a senior prosecutor from the CIO and a DP lawmaker only fuels suspicion about the real role of the agency. Under such circumstances, the prosecution or the CIO can hardly convince the people of the results of their investigations.
They can learn lessons from the stock price manipulation case involving Lee Myung-bak when he was the presidential candidate of the opposition in 2007. Both the prosecution — and later a special prosecutor — did not raise criminal charges against him at the time, but he was arrested in 2017 after his charges were affirmed. We hope a special prosecutor clears suspicions about the two presidential candidates before the March 9 election.
The DP and the PPP must start discussions on the appointment of a neutral special prosecutor to investigate suspicions about the two presidential candidates before it’s too late. That’s the only way to put their strange election campaigns back on track.