Presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Korea, Lee Jae-myung, announced his intention to conditionally accept a special investigation regarding suspicions surrounding the favorable treatment of Daejang-dong development during a debate organized by the Kwanhoon Club, a veteran journalists’ club. He added a condition that he will keep an eye on the prosecution’s investigation and accept a special investigation in case something is lacking or remains suspicious.
Regarding the argument made by the presidential candidate of the People Power Party, Yoon Seok-youl, that simultaneous special investigations should be held for the Daejang-dong development project and the allegation of criminal complaint incitement, Lee said it is not right on the basis that Yoon is trying to avoid and delay an investigation on suspicions surrounding Yoon himself, as well as his mother-in-law and wife, using a special investigation as an excuse. Yoon proposed simultaneous special investigations, claiming that an investigation for the Daejang-dong issue is being delayed and compromised while the allegation of criminal complaint incitement is being over-investigated. The People Power Party put pressure on Lee’s immediate acceptance of a special investigation, saying that the prosecution’s investigation of the issue is trying to conceal truths.
Both candidates who have entered a presidential race with ‘judicial risks’ are sharing harsh words on investigation methods. “If I were still a Prosecutor General, the investigation would be already done,” said Yoon. “He is only talking about revenge. He said he would put me in prison,” said Lee. In reality, it is unclear whether the investigations are not being conducted or cannot be conducted and whether the will or capabilities to investigate are lacking. Meanwhile, both parties are claiming that they are innocent.
This is the first time that the presidential candidates of the ruling party and the main opposition party are in the midst of serious allegations. People are saying that next year’s presidential election is not only likable but also full of corruption. As such, fair investigations without untouchable areas are needed. While the identities of the three key figures of the Daejang-dong issue have been identified and it was even confirmed during the prosecution’s search that Jeong Jin-sang, a confidant of Lee, talked to Yoo, the prosecution is hesitant to investigate the upper-level figures. Several allegations have been raised against Yoon, not only criminal complaint incitement, but also the covering of corruption committed by a former head of National Tax Service’s Yongsan District Office, Yoon Woo-jin, as well as the manipulation of Deutsch Motors’ stocks by his mother-in-law and wife.
It is also disadvantageous for the two candidates to go on with the election without resolving allegations about them. In the 2007 presidential election, an allegation was raised that then-presidential candidate Lee Myung-bak was the actual owner of DAS and BBK, but the prosecution concluded that there was no charge to be made two weeks before the election. It was a political decision when his win seemed certain. However, as an investigation was relaunched 10 years later and confirmed he was indeed the actual owner of DAS, the former president was sentenced to 17 years in prison and is currently serving his time. It was unnecessary damage and unfortunate incident to the nation.
The same should not be repeated this time. The prosecution and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials should conduct fair and objective investigations for both candidates. They should not play tricks to wait to announce investigation results until after the election. Given that exemptions will be applied to presidential candidates’ arrest and imprisonment after their registration as presidential candidates on February 13 and 14 next year, investigation results should be released before then.