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[Editorial] The Roh Administration’s Double-Dealing Attitude

[Editorial] The Roh Administration’s Double-Dealing Attitude

Posted November. 29, 2005 07:51,   


It turns out that Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan tried to make a deal on the punishments to be doled out to two former National Intelligence Service (NIS) directors.

Prime Minister Lee allegedly tried to make a political deal with former-President Kim Dae-jung and mentioned the possibility of investigating former NIS directors Lim Dong-won and Shin Kun, without arrest, when Lee called on Kim on November 13. Lee reportedly asked for Kim’s cooperation when he conveyed the message that if the two were to express their regret appropriately, they would not be arrested.

The Constitution and related laws stipulate that arrest warrants should be issued by judges at the request of prosecutors. Whether to make arrests or not is also determined according to the Constitution and related laws. If the allegations turn out to be true, what the prime minister did is an outright violation of the Constitution in that he infringed upon not only the prosecution’s political neutrality, but also the power of the judiciary.

Notwithstanding Lee’s powers of persuasion, politicians on Kim Dae-jung’s side categorically denied the allegations that Kim’s administration engaged in wiretapping, and the court issued arrest warrants at the request of the prosecution, which were worried about the destroying of evidence. However, what would have happened, if Kim Dae-jung and his political allies had jumped at Prime Minister Lee’s proposal? Pressures would have been applied to the prosecution through various channels, and if those pressures had not worked, the justice minister would have invoked his control rights over the prosecution, saying, “Investigate those two without arrest,” as he did in the case of Professor Kang Jeong-gu.

At every opportunity, the Roh Moo-hyun administration has emphasized that public agencies that are liable to be used as tools to serve the interests of the power that be, such as the prosecution, the NIS, the National Tax Service, and the Board of Audit and Inspection, “have reassumed their political neutrality.” However, no Korean would buy into such words after having watched Justice Minister Cheon Jeong-bae invoking his control rights over the prosecution in the case of Professor Kang Jeong-gu, which is unprecedented in our constitutional history, and this time around, Prime Minister Lee violated the Constitution.

Moreover, a look at the process that led to Prime Minister Lee’s visit to Kim Dae-jung clearly reveals that the government moved in an organized way. Two days after Justice Minister Cheon briefed President Roh on where the investigations stood, Prime Minister Lee visited Kim Dae-jung. What does this fact tell us? The administration calculated that the proposal was a two-bird-one-stone solution. In other words, it reached the conclusion that the public would applaud it for stamping out wiretapping while the administration would not lose favor with constituents in North and South Jeolla Provinces, former president Kim’s political stronghold.

The prosecution, too, is responsible for what happened. The prosecution tentatively concluded that it would investigate Lim and Shin without arrest if they admitted to their involvement in wiretapping. By briefing the Justice Minister on every detail of the investigation, including this tentative conclusion on the part of the prosecution, the prosecution prompted the administration to take “defensive” measures, undermining its own political neutrality.

Cheong Wa Dae and Prime Minister Lee should come clean about every detail of the political deal proposed and apologize for violations of the Constitution, rather than deny the allegations saying “Making such a proposal is simply unthinkable.”