Justice delayed but better late than never

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Justice delayed but better late than never

 The prosecution has resumed its investigation into the suspicion that the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy pressured a number of CEOs to resign if they didn’t follow the new Moon Jae-in administration’s guidelines in 2017. After a three-year hiatus, the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office on Friday swiftly raided the ministry’s departments handling nuclear reactor policy, its planning and coordination office, and four power plants under the ministry’s control, including Korea Energy, a coal-powered plant.

It all started with a senior ministry official who summoned heads of the four power plants in September 2017 — four months after the launch of the Moon administration — to a hotel in Seoul to force them out. They allegedly had to submit their resignations with up to 26 months left before their terms expired. The Liberty Korea Party (LKP), predecessor of the current opposition People Power Party (PPP), attacked the Moon administration for pressuring heads of public corporations to step down if they opposed the government’s nuclear phase-out policy. Investigations began in January 2019 after the LKP accused former Minister Paik Un-gyu and other officials of abuse of power.

A blacklist is often made to punish certain people over differences they have with government policies. It constitutes brazen discrimination in a democracy. Whether pro-government or not, prosecutors should have found the truth behind it. Our reality was different. Their probe came to a halt after the head of the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office and other senior prosecutors were demoted after they indicted top officials of the Ministry of Environment for the same charge in a similar case. Suspicions arose over the possibility of pro-government heads of the district prosecutors’ office having wielded influence on junior prosecutors to dismiss the case against the energy ministry.

But such cases are stacking up in the district prosecutors’ office, including a Blue House special inspection team allegedly making a blacklist of names to be removed from their jobs at 330 public corporations. The accused include Moon’s former chief of staff Im Jong-seok. The prosecution must hold them accountable for their abuse of power if proven true.

The ruling Democratic Party (DP) claimed that the prosecution’s about-turn reflects its intent to curry favor with the incoming administration. The prosecution took the position that its investigation gained momentum after the replacement last June of the head of the district prosecutors’ office and the sentencing in January to two years in jail of the former environment minister. The investigation stopped for a while. We hope the prosecution does its best to regain public trust before it’s too late.
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