Time to clear the suspicionThe Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office cleared senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon of the charge that he had colluded with a TV news reporter of Channel A to attack pro-government figures for their corruption. The Moon Jae-in administration, ruling Democratic Party (DP), pro-government media and liberal civic groups had accused prosecutor Han of trying to strike a deal between the top law enforcement agency and the cable television to find any dirt on the ruling front. It took the prosecution two years to complete the investigation and wrap up the case. But how national broadcaster MBC, a close ally of the Moon administration, came to raise the issue still remains unclear.
MBC reported that Han, a close ally of then-Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol, had teamed up with a conservative TV news reporter in 2020 in blackmailing an imprisoned shareholder of Sillajen to expose irregularities of pro-government figures, including liberal pundit Rhyu Si-min, a former health minister, based on a testimony by a whistleblower. Prosecutors started the investigation in April that year upon criminal claims filed by a civilian media watchdog.
In July, then Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae removed Prosecutor General Yoon from command over the case and instructed top pro-government prosecutors — Lee Sung-yoon, current head of the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office, and Lee Jung-soo, current chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office — deal with the case. Opponents suspected that the transfer of the investigative authority to pro-government prosecutors was aimed at finding fault with Han, a close ally of Yoon who is now the president-elect.
But the investigation did not proceed as the ruling camp had hoped. The former TV reporter was found not guilty in the first trial in July last year. The investigation team in the prosecution has repeatedly reported to its leadership their conclusion not to indict Han since January last year. But the team was ordered to investigate further. The finding of the investigation team was finally accepted last week.
Han said he had been framed by the ruling force for investigating on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, a darling of the Moon administration. Han added that the government’s methodical “campaign of making lies and exploiting the top law enforcement authority” has finally failed.
The Central District Prosecutors’ Office has accused the whistleblower of defamation on top prosecutor Han and referred the case to the court. But MBC has not apologized. The prosecution must clear the suspicion about the possibility of pro-government groups trying to hide any wrongdoings of the Moon administration and pro-government figures.