Money funneling into Lee’s campaign

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Money funneling into Lee’s campaign

Kim Yong, deputy head of the Institute for Democracy, a think tank under the Democratic Party (DP), was arrested by the prosecution on Wednesday on charges of violating the Election Fund Act. He is suspected of illicitly receiving 800 million won ($558,269) from private stakeholders, including lawyer Nam Wook, in the Wirye and Daejang-dong development projects in Seongnam city to help DP Chair Lee Jae-myung before he ran for president in the March 9 election. Lee called Kim his “closest confidante.”

It is the first time for one of Lee’s top aides to be caught by the prosecution for possible involvement in his suspicious funding for the election. Local media in Seongnam city had reported rumors about the shady funding. It is shocking that some mysteries over Lee — the former presidential candidate from the DP and current head of the party — are materializing.

Chairman Lee, who approved the Daejang-dong development as Seongnam mayor at the time, denied his involvement in raking in profits from the project. But it turned out that a group of private investors — including Nam, the lawyer — took an enormous amount of money from the redevelopment project. The prosecution believes that the lawyer gave 800 million won to Kim after he demanded some of the profits to help Lee’s campaign. Kim received the money between April and August last year, shortly before the DP’s primary race.

Despite the timing, Lee kept mum and went home without answering questions from reporters. On the following day, he said, “I have never spent illegal funds in my life.” If he was able to flatly deny allegations against him just a day later, why did he keep silence the day before. After the prosecution filed for an arrest warrant for Kim based on solid evidence, the court issued it Wednesday.

Nevertheless, political controversy is unavoidable after the prosecution arrested the head of the DP with 169 seats in the 300-member National Assembly. To dispel any unnecessary controversy, the prosecution must find the truth behind the transfer of money. Prosecutors must get to the bottom of the case to see if the money was really spent to help Lee’s campaign — and if Lee orchestrated the scheme from the start.

The DP must behave itself. After the arrest of Kim, it denounced the government for “political oppression” and threatened to stop the ongoing regular audit of the government. But Kim’s arrest and all suspicions surrounding Lee are related to individual corruption, not the party’s. It will be better for the supermajority party to hold its breath and watch prosecutors dig into the evolving suspicions.
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