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Concluding corruption probe and winning public trust

Posted December. 06, 2017 07:38,   

Updated December. 06, 2017 09:24


Prosecutor General Mun Moo-il announced Tuesday that the prosecution would conclude key corruption investigations by the end of this year. “It might be hard to wrap up all the investigations, but our aim is to complete highly controversial cases within this year,” said Moon at a press conference, explaining the background of putting an official due date on ongoing investigations. “We will focus on issues related to the public from next year. I believe social development is hindered when the whole society pays attention to an issue for too long, just like listening to the same thing repeatedly is tiring.”

The key cases are the ones requested by the corruption investigation task force into the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Investigations on the NIS are inevitable, but they have become somewhat excessive. The prosecution thoroughly investigated what the TF found in cabinets. More than 60 prosecutors from the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office buried themselves in the investigation on the former Park Geun-hye administration to process 16 investment requests, which was why some 20 prosecutors from District Public Prosecutor's Offices all over the country were assigned to the NIS investigation. Twenty-two senior NIS officials have been jailed. Some tragedies followed the investigation as well. Prosecutor Byeon Chang-hoon of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and attorney Jeong Chi-ho committed suicide during the investigation. Speeding up the investigation seems to be the right direction except that it is already overdue.

However, the prosecutor general added the investigation would continue in 2018, citing that investigations into NIS’ special activity funds and issues related to former President Lee Myung-bak need follow-up measures. Appropriation of the special fund is a serious illegal activity, but the focus should be on the personal use of the special budget. Personal use of the expenses allocated for special activities is hard to root out unless institutional improvements are accompanied. Gathering sufficient evidence should precede the will to probe into former President Lee. Without evidence, the investigation on Lee can be more difficult than that on Park.

Nevertheless, Mun’s vow to wrap up the corruption probe and focus more on the public issues still means a lot. The prosecutor general needs to change the direction of current investigations to normalize the prosecution and earn trust of the public. The world is emerging again from recession. Korea should make more efforts to seize an edge in the global competition. A month has passed since the one-year anniversary of the candlelight vigil. Now we need to eye on the future as a country as a whole.

The ruling Minjoo Party opposed to the prosecutor general’s announcement. Their intention might be to highlight the dishonest image of the former conservative administrations until the local election in June next year. However, as the ruling party of the nation, the Minjoo Party needs to prioritize the national interest. It should be noted that the goal of corruption investigations is to raise competitiveness of Korea by eradicating corrupt practices. Our path ahead is too long and thorny to be immersed in the past.