A never-ending dramaIn a press conference on Wednesday, Supreme Court Justice Cho Jae-yeon denied the assertion that a person referred to on a recording at the center of the Daejang-dong development scandal was him. Cho denied the allegation that he had received an expensive villa in Pangyo, Gyeonggi as a bribe in return for doing some favors. He expressed deep regrets about “political attacks” between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition People Power Party (PPP) over ungrounded allegations shortly before the March 9 presidential election.
Cho held the press conference after watching a nationally-televised presidential debate on Monday in which his name was mentioned by DP candidate Lee Jae-myung. As Cho said, the public is deeply perplexed to see a Supreme Court justice forced to hold a press conference to clear his name. Former Justice Kwon Soon-il has been investigated for five months for allegedly receiving 5 billion won ($4.2 million) from Hwacheon Daeyu, an asset management company at the center of the development scandal.
According to a transcript prepared by public accountant Jeong Young-hak, a stakeholder in the development project in Seongnam city, Kim Man-bae, a major shareholder in Hwacheon Daeyu, mentioned a person in February 2021 while promising to “prepare 5 billion won and buy a villa for him.” At that time, Cho was head of the Office of Court Administration (OCA). The DP immediately demanded an apology from the PPP, claiming that the person referred to in the transcript was not Lee Jae-myung, its presidential candidate.
It is true that Cho served as head of the OCA when DP candidate Lee, then Gyeonggi governor, was found not guilty of violating the election law by the Supreme Court. The problem is a lack of evidence except for the transcript. The prosecution must find the truth behind all these suspicions.
A bigger problem is political exploitation of the transcript by the two political parties with only two weeks left before the election. Lee attacked his rival Yoon Suk-yeol citing the transcript in which Kim Man-bae said, “Yoon is dead if I use one of my cards.” In reaction, Yoon denounced Lee for the appearance of the phrase “Lee Jae-myung-gate” at the end of the transcript.
Such confusion owes much to the prosecution dragging its feet in investigating the case. If a transcript is to be used as key evidence, a thorough investigation is a must. But prosecutors have been sitting on their hands. The voters are only embarrassed at the strange developments before the election.