Investigate errand-gate to settle the matter

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Investigate errand-gate to settle the matter

 Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung apologized for the controversy about his wife exploiting employees of the Gyeonggi Provincial government to run errands and her use of a “corporate card” during Lee’s governorship period. “I had not been meticulous in checking wrongdoings of employees and problems a spouse could cause.” The apology was ambiguous as it was unclear exactly what wrong was done and by whom. Instead of calling for investigation by law enforcement, Lee requested an internal inspection on the allegation about the use of the corporate card for personal spending by his wife.

But the affair is grave as his wife could have broken laws. If the spouse of an elected government office head used government employees as personal secretaries to run errands and used a corporate card for personal spending, the act could be criminally charged for abuse of power and causing damage to national coffers.

The acts of controversy are abnormal. A government employee of the seventh grade in a nine-tier system under the order by his boss of fifth grade claimed to have devoted 90 percent of his work time running errands for Kim Hye-kyung, the wife of Lee. He had to pick up food and medicine on her behalf, write up a Covid-19 questionnaire and even oversee the hospital discharge of their son in military service. A corporate card was used to pay for Kim’s groceries. The spending was first processed with the employee’s card and canceled to be expensed with the corporate card the following day. There is an allegation that 140 million won ($116,715) in cash was withdrawn for “special purposes.”

Kim and the boss at first denied the allegation by the lower-grade provincial government official after he exposed it through a TV news report, and then suddenly apologized five days later. The fifth-grade secretary surnamed Bae claimed it had been her own idea to order her subordinate to do personal things to impress Kim and the governor. She claimed the prescribed medicine was for herself. But in the text message to the lower-level official, she asked him to get the drug for Kim. She specifically ordered the medicine to be picked up and put it in front of the door of Kim’s residence. The sudden apology could suggest the couple had tried to pressure the lower-level employee to withdraw his claims, but failed. The employee is said to be under psychiatric treatment due to deep instability after blowing the whistle.

The investigation of the affair should not be led by the provincial government Lee commanded until three months ago. The couple and secretary Bae have been accused of causing damage to national coffers by the opposition party. The prosecution must embark on the investigation to find any illegalities.
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