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[Editorial] Prosecutors must investigate elite, too

Posted November. 07, 2000 13:37,   


Our prosecutors' image, thus far, has been that they acted strongly in dealing with the past political powers but appeared weak and soft before the incumbent power holders. Whenever a transfer of power takes place, they displayed such a behavioral pattern by taking on the incumbents' behalf what they termed the task to right past wrongdoing, which invariably raised among the general public the controversy about their politically targeted investigations.

The prosecutors, it should be recalled here, have often changed overnight their stand, for example, their turn in the past to support the new military leaders' Dec. 12 and May 18 coups. For another, when they were faced with the controversial clothes-for-favor scandal last year, their vacillation to investigate the case and the inclination to play with the intentions of the ruling powers over the matter eventually led to the creation of special prosecutors to probe the case to their humiliation.

Such has been the behavior of our prosecutors, who now has to face a public test again. The challenge this time is their investigation of the Dongbang Mutual Savings & Finance's unlawful loans. The way they will investigate the matter will show us something to test their political neutrality.

Our repeated emphasis here is that the key to the probe is to clarify whether or not there were political lobbies by Korea Digital Lines (KDL) president Chung Hyun-Joon and Dongbang vice chairman Lee Kyong-Ja, who masterminded the unlawful loans in tens of billion won. Some of powerful elite were named as allegedly involved in the scandal. The issue has now become a focus of partisan disputes between the ruling and opposition parties.

Prosecutors repeatedly have assured us of their thorough probes. In fact, they have ascertained some evidence about the amounts of KDL president Chung's unlawful loans and his manipulation of prices of stocks and shares, as well as the bribes to officials of the Financial Supervisory Service (FSS).

The prosecutors are now known to be concentrating their investigative efforts to confirm the truth of Dongbang vice chairman Lee's confessional accounts that she used about 1 billion won to bribe FSS officials.

Yet their investigations into the possible involvement of political elite appear hopelessly backpedaling as to make us doubt their serious intent to probe them. So much so in fact, there are rumors that the prosecutors already have decided to conclude this issue as merely a swindling case of huge amount of money by an immoral venture businessman.

In the same light, the general public never stops to raise suspicions over the circumstances of some essential accomplices who escaped overseas: Dongbang president You Cho-Woong fled the country just prior to the prosecutors' initiation of full investigations; and a Mr. Oh, who reputedly acted as an agent for political lobby for the Dongbang vice-chairman, also fled abroad.

The general public's suspicion is that the prosecutors might have deliberately overlooked the overseas escapees in order to cover up their probes on the involvement of the political elite.

Worse still, the opposition Grand National Party raised the suspicion that the prosecutors abetted Chang Rae-Chan's hideout. Chang, as the FSS's departmental head and a key figure in the investigation, committed suicide while on the wanted list. The GNP also presented the list of notes and checks Chung issued, for the rigorous tracking of the flow of the fund.

The only honorable way the prosecutors can counter such suspicions about them is the conducting of thorough investigations that would leave no stone unturned. They must clarify any involvement of the political elite whose names were mentioned in the controversy. This will require a rigorous probe of any use of borrowed names by those members who joined Chung's private funds.