Amateur hour at the CIOThe Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO)’s file for an arrest warrant for Son Jun-sung — a prosecutor accused of helping arrange a criminal complaint against pro-government figures for the opposition People Power Party (PPP) — was turned down once again. A judge at the Seoul Central District Court rejected the motion, citing insufficient grounds for his arrest, whereas the defendant has the right of defense without detention. The CIO conducted a month-long investigation since the last rejection by the court, but failed to build enough of a case to convince the judge to warrant a pretrial arrest.
Such laxity cannot be understood, particularly when the investigation involves the presidential candidate of the PPP. As Yeo Woon-kook, deputy head of the CIO, was a former judge in charge of issuing arrest warrants, he is suspected to have pressed on with Son’s arrest through his influence in the court.
As soon as the warrant was rejected, the CIO again summoned Son back to the office for a separate questioning on allegations about his possible involvement in the prosecution’s surveillance on judges. Amid criticism, the CIO is turning hawkish.
The office has been raising questions on civilian rights and political neutrality. The court judged that the CIO abused its power when it raided the office of PPP Rep. Kim Woong, also a former prosecutor. The CIO appears to be devoted to investigating any potential wrongdoings by the PPP.
In October, Kim Jin-wook, the founding head of the CIO, said the office mostly deals with cases the former special department of the prosecution took up. He argued the office would be complying with stricter guidelines on arrests. Upon inaugurating to his new office in February, Yeo promised political neutrality. But the CIO’s actions have been the opposite.
Yeo admitted the office had been “amateurish” in dealing with Son’s case. It is laughable that the office is begging for understanding for its recklessness because it is amateurish.
From the early stages, the CIO caused controversy by using its official car to drive Lee Sung-yoon — head of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office — back to his office after questioning him.
The CIO must seriously deliberate on what it has been doing since its founding a year ago. We do not need an extraordinary investigation office which is more biased and inapt than the prosecution.