What did they say about Caesar’s wife?Police raided the Gyeonggi provincial government building Monday to find evidence in an investigation into whether Kim Hye-kyung, wife of defeated presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung, abusing her position as first lady of the province when her husband was governor. The police of southern Gyeonggi division sent 10 investigators to the administration office of the Gyeonggi provincial government to secure files on uses of corporate credit cards. A Gyeonggi government employee identified by the surname Bae, who had acted as a kind of private secretary for Kim, has been banned from leaving the country.
The allegations were exposed by a lower-ranking official who claimed to have run errands for Kim. The official took orders from Bae to shop and deliver groceries and get prescription medicine for the governor’s wife. He claimed to have bought beef with his credit card and later expensed it to the provincial government.
The scandal was made worse by the behavior of Kim and the ruling Democratic Party. Kim said she was pained to hear the agonies the lower-ranking official went through, suggesting all the improper acts were Bae’s doing. The DP suspected the lower-ranking official of having ulterior motives and made light of the affair.
On Feb. 9, a month before the presidential election, Kim held a press conference to publicly apologize for her shortcomings. Without explaining herself, she said she would cooperate with investigators to tell the truth. She said she was willing to pay the price if she was found at fault.
The last presidential election saw the worst kind of negative campaigning. The rival parties found fault with the wives of the presidential candidates. Foreign media called the election the most disgraceful in South Korean democratic history, dominated by scandals, slander, and skirmishes. It received mockery from North Korea’s propaganda outlet.
The police must make sure their investigation does not stir another nasty mud fight among rival parties during the June local elections. The investigation of Kim falls under the responsibility of the Gyeonggi Nambu Police Agency and the probe of the wife of president-elect Yoon Suk—yeol under the Seoul Police Agency. The police commissioner promised investigations according to the law and principles. But the police under President Moon Jae-in have been criticized for favoring the ruling power. They must be quick and fair in their investigation on Kim and come to conclusions that are credible to the rival parties as well as the public to win back trust.