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DA’s Office in Dilemma

Posted July. 28, 2007 03:33,   


Former Seoul mayor and leading presidential candidate Lee Myeong-bak, his brother-in-law Kim Jae-jeong, and Kim’s company Das Inc. withdrew all the criminal complaints they had filed yesterday. Now we are wondering how and in what capacity the Seoul District Public Prosecutors’ Office will conduct the investigation.

Chief prosecutor Kim Hong-il in charge of the case commented yesterday, right after the withdrawal, “We have received complaints from others. Some parts of the dropped complaints automatically grant jurisdiction to us despite the wish of the original complainants.”

“We will soon decide whether to continue our investigation. We have to review the whole thing first,” continued Kim.

His remarks implied the prudent and cautious approach of the DA’s office. The DA’s probe could tip the balance of the presidential race for one candidate over the others. It’s a matter of grave concern and interest for the public.

If the DA’s office maintains a tough position on an already dropped case, especially concerning the alleged illegal land deal of Lee, the public will doubt the real intent of the office. Citizens may suspect that the office is politically motivated. On the other hand, if it does sloppy work or abruptly stops its probe, some politicians will cry for the appointment of an independent counsel. It’s a dilemma.

Kim’s counsel Kim Yong-cheol explained, “We dropped the case not because we want to sway the office out of the investigation.” But the Grand National Party (“GNP”) pressured the DA’s office, saying, “Once the complainants drop the case, there is no reason and authority left for the DA’s office to continue the probe.”

Spokesperson Lee Hye-hoon of former GNP leader Park Geun-hye alleged, “Kim’s charge left incurable, dishonorable scars on our party members. Kim owes us an apology. We urge the DA’s office to continue its investigation.”

Some prosecutors support Park’s wish. They argue that the withdrawal has nothing to do with the decision of the DA’s office.

In addition, Systemmirae Party leader Ji Mahn-won recently filed complaints against former Mayor Lee, Kim and a couple of GNP representatives on false allegation charges. Thus, the DA’s office still maintains authority and jurisdiction over the lingering allegations against Lee.

But a majority of legal experts predict that the DA’s office has to narrow its investigation scope.

Upon Kim’s filing of a defamation complaint, the DA’s office had investigated the case in three broad categories concerning Lee’s alleged real estate purchases in Kim’s name, alleged granting of special favors to Hongeun Planning, and the confirmed illegal access and release of Lee’s personal information by government agencies.

The first two categories are directly affected by Kim’s withdrawal.

The DA’s office cannot prosecute a defamation case against the will of the complainant. Thus, usually upon the withdrawal, the DA’s office drops the case, citing lack of jurisdiction.

Thus, the DA’s office is likely to continue its investigation focused on the illegal leakage of the personal information of Lee’s family, and the covert operation by the National Intelligence Service against Lee.

needjung@donga.com dnsp@donga.com