Lee must comply with investigation

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Lee must comply with investigation

Kim Yong, deputy head of the Institute for Democracy, a think tank for the Democratic Party (DP), was arrested Thursday by the prosecution on charges of illicitly taking money from Seongnam city officials to help Lee Jae-myung — chairman of the DP now and its presidential candidate at the time — to win the party’s primary last year. After a court issued an arrest warrant for Kim, prosecutors are investigating to see if the illegal money was funneled into Lee’s campaign.

After claiming that he didn’t receive any dirty money for the campaign, Lee proposed a special counsel probe into the Daejang-dong development he had approved as Seongnam mayor in the mid-2000s and at the same time into several suspicions surrounding President Yoon Suk-yeol.

On Sunday, Rep. Cho Jeong-sik, secretary general of the DP, demanded Yoon make clear his position on an independent counsel probe by Tuesday, when he is scheduled to make an address on next year’s budget in the National Assembly. Rep. Park Hong-keun, DP floor leader, even demanded an apology for “political oppression” from the president, hinting at the possibility of boycotting his speech in the legislature.

But Kim, whom Lee called his “closest confidant,” faces grave suspicions. Kim is suspected of pocketing 600 million won ($417,000) after initially demanding 2 billion won from Yoo Dong-gyu, a senior official at the Seongnam Development Corporation (SDC) in charge of the redevelopment project. The prosecution reportedly secured information on the exact date, location and amount of money from a private developer who delivered the money to Kim.

The arrest warrant specified Kim’s role as the “manager of campaign funds and related organizations.”

Normally, a special counsel is appointed when the prosecution dilly-dallies on sensitive investigations or does not probe a case properly. But this time, the prosecution has just started looking into the suspicious campaign funding by Lee’s campaign. Therefore, it does not make sense to call for an investigation by a special prosecutor.

If Lee is really innocent, he has no reason to avoid an investigation by the prosecution. Moreover, after his release on Thursday from a year of detention, Yoo, the senior official at the SDC, said that Lee must be punished for what he ordered him to do. Lee certainly knew about the delivery of the money, as it took place just ten days before the election of the presidential candidate of the DP, Yoo said.

DP lawmakers close to Lee cite the need for outdoor rallies if the president does not accept his proposal for a special counsel. The liberals and conservatives each held a massive rally in downtown Seoul on Sunday to demand “Yoon’s resignation” or “Lee’s arrest.” We wonder if the DP holding a supermajority in the legislature really wants to fuel the division of the country before an imminent economic crisis.

The prosecution also must dispel deep-rooted public suspicion on its biased probe in favor of ruling forces. The Daejang-dong development scandal actually broke during the Moon Jae-in administration. But the prosecution was just sitting on its hands.

Since the prosecution has started a real investigation, it must conclude the case by upholding neutrality above all else.
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