[Editorial] Lee must prove his innocence with action

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[Editorial] Lee must prove his innocence with action

The Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office reportedly has summoned Democratic Party (DP) Chair Lee Jae-myung for questioning on his alleged involvement in a suspicious sponsorship for Seongnam FC when he was mayor of the city. Lee is suspected of taking over 16-billion-won ($12.5-million) in donations from large companies, including Naver and Doosan Engineering & Construction, for the football club while serving as owner of the club in return for favors. It is lamentable that the head of a political party holding a majority in the National Assembly was summoned by prosecutors.

Lee flatly denies all allegations against him. But anyone would find it strange for six major corporations to donate a large amount of money to Seongnam FC, a mediocre football club. If the prosecution should avoid an investigation into the suspicious donation simply because he became chief of the majority opposition, it constitutes a dereliction of duty. If Lee is really innocent, he can simply go to the prosecution office and refute allegations against him.

But Lee refused to comply with the prosecution’s request, citing its “one-sided notification.” Instead, he put the blame on the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. “Even if the government kills me, it cannot conceal the inability and unfairness of the Yoon administration. Are you afraid of me that much?” Lee retorted.

We are dumbfounded at his out-of-the-blue tour to other parts of the country under the banner of “Listening to people” to rally public support by attacking the prosecution for “oppressing the opposition.” Why did he have to resort to such a raw approach to cope with his legal challenges?

After the prosecution’s investigation into the Daejang-dong development scandal involving Lee gained traction after the indictments of his close aides, the DP bet all on protecting him. The party declared an end to political battles after the Itaewon disaster, but unilaterally passed a motion to force out Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, a close ally of President Yoon Suk-yeol, and one-sidedly pushed for a parliamentary probe of the deadly crowd crush. A party holding 169 seats in the 300-member legislature deserves criticism for having degenerated into a group of loyalists to its boss.

All allegations against Lee — including the old suspicion that he pressured companies to pay legal fees for his court case on his behalf — were raised by prosecutors under the Moon Jae-in administration. As the allegations have nothing to do with the DP, Lee must stop using the party as a shield to defend against investigations by the prosecution. Lee must prove his innocence as an individual, not as leader of the party.
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