Chairman Lee and his party must tell the truth

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Chairman Lee and his party must tell the truth

Democratic Party (DP) head Lee Jae-myung attacked the government and the People Power Party (PPP) for axing the budget on public housing for rent. DP floor leader Park Hong-keun condemned the “political” prosecutors and police under the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. But they kept mum on the brewing controversy over corruption of the party chief.

In a trial earlier this week, Nam Wook — a lawyer and key figure in the Daejang-dong development scandal involving Lee when he was Seongnam mayor — testified that he knew some of the profit of Cheonhwa Dongin No. 1, an investor in the development project, was supposed to go to the mayor’s office then seated by current DP leader Lee. The lawyer said that of the 49 percent share owned by Kim Man-bae — the owner of Hwacheon Daeyu, the monopoly operator of the redevelopment project — 37.4 percent belonged to Lee. The ratio was revised to 24.5 percent last year. The lawyer also testified that he had heard money was going to Lee’s aides Jeong Jin-sang and Kim Yong. Jeong, deputy chief of staff to Lee, and Kim, vice chair of a DP think tank, have both been arrested for taking bribes.

Although Cheonhwa Dongin No. 1 was legally under the ownership of Kim Man-bae as a unit of Hwacheon Daeyu, Kim had previously said that half of the stake belonged to “a higher person.” Nam said he would take the legal responsibility if he lied under oath.

The indictment on Kim Yong was also based on similar testimony. Kim Man-bae had earmarked some share for the aides of Lee, saying he would give 70 billion won ($52 million) to them after excluding some expense for operation and 42.8 billion won after tax. The arrest warrant referred to Jeong’s money as a “reservoir.” Since the head of the majority party is implicated in the case, the prosecution must act fast on clear evidence. There must not be any dispute about political motive.

Lee and the DP claim that they are being framed. The party tried to prevent a raid and search on the two aides, but the court granted arrest warrants to both. Court testimonies have also undermined the arguments from the DP. Lee and the party must explain themselves clearly if they have nothing to hide.

Internal complaints are brewing. Some think Chairman Lee should at least apologize for the arrest of his closest aides and separate political oppression on the past Moon Jae-in administration from the Daejang-dong case. The DP leadership has not taken action to suspend Kim, the aide to the chairman, after he has been indicted for taking illegal election funds. The DP has lost its dignity as a major political party.
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