Kim Moo-sung, floor leader of the ruling Grand National Party, said he wielded influence over resolving cases involving former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook, who was indicted without physical detention on the charge of taking more than 900 million won (753,000 U.S. dollars) in illegal political funds, and Rep. Kang Sung-jong of the main opposition Democratic Party, who is suspected of misappropriating eight billion won (6.6 million dollars) in funds from a private school foundation while serving as chairman of Shinheung Educational Foundation. Kim said this in a meeting of the ruling partys supreme council, saying, I made efforts through negotiations (with prosecutors) to get (Han) indicted without physical detention at the request of the Democratic Party. On Kang, Kim said, Weve been seeking to block (prosecutors) move to send a request (to the National Assembly) seeking approval for his arrest.
The ruling party thus effectively admitted to its ill-advised corruption alliance that it maintained in secret with the opposition. Kim said, The ruling party is seeking to recover politics and trying not to inflict more pain on the Democratic Partys dark side, and now we truly regret that the Democratic Party is overly attacking us over ruling party lawmaker Kang Yong-seoks sexist comments scandal. Kim thus explained how and why the ruling party cooperated to help its rival over a politician affiliated with the latter and the reason he disclosed these incidents.
The Democratic Party and prosecutors deny Kims accusations but what he said should be considered true given his status as floor leader and because he made his comments in public at a meeting of his partys top leaders. Kim was seen attempting to downplay the request for cooperation to prosecutors as a trivial matter, but prosecutors must maintain strict political neutrality when handling cases according to the Prosecutorial Office Act. The provision requiring even the justice minister to use his or her command for certain types of cases only via the prosecutor-general is also meant to protect criminal investigations from political pressure. If criminal probes and decisions whether to arrest come under political influence, fair execution of justice and laws will prove difficult and the countrys foundation of rule of law will be placed on shaky ground.
Prosecutors issued a statement Friday denying Kims comments as totally groundless, adding the decision to indict Han without physical detention was made based on purely their independent judgment. How Han was indicted without physical detention is questionable, however, since she is charged with taking more than 900 million won in illegal political funds. In the past, prosecutors would indict with physical detention a person charged with taking 200 million won (166,812 dollars) or more in illegal political funds. If Kims words are true, prosecutors effectively gave up their authority as the nations supreme investigator and their purported political neutrality, and instead chose to become political prosecutors.
Kim must make clear what and to whom in the prosecution he made the comments to end the dispute. The Democratic Party is most likely an accomplice in a case where the ruling party pressured prosecutors.