’After arresting Kim Yong, a deputy head of the Institute for Democracy and a close aide of Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae-myung, on Wednesday, prosecutors will request an arrest warrant on charges of raising illegal funds from the staff of the Daejang-dong development project between April and August last year. Prosecutors are looking into the possibility of the fund being used for Lee’s presidential election campaign funds.
Kim allegedly demanded the funds from former acting president of Seongnam Development Corporation, Yoo Dong-gyu, saying that he “needs 2 billion won for the presidential election,” according to prosecutors. Yoo asked the money attorney Nam Wook, a major stakeholder in the development project, who then raised around 800 million won in cash. Prosecutors believe that 600 million among 800 million won may have been delivered to Kim.
Lee used to refer to Kim as “a friend and my other self.” When the media described Yoo as the “key figure” in the Daejang-dong development scandal and Lee’s close associate, he said that “Jeong Jin-sang (an official of the DP leader’s office) or Kim Yong might be my closest aides, but not Yoo.” Kim once served as spokesperson for Lee, then Gyeonggi governor, and as Director General of the Election Campaign Committee during the last presidential election. Kim’s career shows that he was undoubtedly one of Lee’s closest confidants.
If Kim indeed received massive funds from the Daejang-dong project staff, the investigation against the Daejang-dong scandal may enter an entirely new phase. If the funds were used for Lee’s presidential election campaign, the DP head could hardly be free from political and legal liabilities. Lee cried foul, using strong expressions such as “oppression of the opposition party” and “removing political rivals” “They keep talking about election campaign funds, and I haven’t used a single coin of illegal funds,” Lee said. The fate of the two sides is at stake.
If the investigation turns into a probe for presidential election funds, it will be after 20 years since the ‘truck-gate’ in 2002, which the then-Grand National Party received a truck loaded with illegal election funds. Prosecutors allegedly secured the related statement from Yoo recently. Ironically, Yoo was released at midnight yesterday after his detention period expired. The investigation must never involve a political interest. The truth should be uncovered based only on consistent statements of the people concerned and evidence.
Prosecutors tried to seize and search the Institute for Democracy in the DP office but failed due to the backlash from some DP members. Although it was a due process of executing the court warrant, some pointed out that the seize and search operation against the opposition party during the period of the National Assembly’s inspection of state affairs was too much. The suspicions over the black money that made innumerable profits for private business owners are at the center of the public’s interests. Prosecutors’ investigations must be fair and strict to avoid any political misunderstandings.