As prosecutors have started investigating suspicion of political funds of then main opposition Democratic Party’s candidate Lee Jae-myung from the latest presidential election, Lee, now the opposition leader, has started demanding an independence counsel probe into the Daejang-dong development project’ case. “I never received even a candy, let alone receiving political funds for the presidential election,” Lee told reporters at a press conference on Friday. “I demand the president and the ruling party to immediately accept our demand for an independent counsel investigation into the Daejang-dong development project.” “It is an intentional act to drag feet, waste time, and dilute the case,” the ruling People Power Party said while rejecting the demand. “We urge him to receive prosecutorial investigation first.”
Earlier Friday morning, prosecutors sought an arrest warrant for Kim Yong, Lee’s confidant and a deputy director of the Democracy Institute, on the charge of receiving 847 million won (about 587,000 U.S. dollars) for use in the presidential election from suspects in the Daejang-dong case. Lee’s decision to use a prosecutorial probe as a countermeasure is a political plot. By framing the probe as political oppression of politicians and political retaliation against the main opposition party and the underdog in the election, Lee seeks to dodge prosecution and stage a campaign to garner public support.
A special counsel probe into the Daejang-dong case was also suggested in the latest presidential election. When the People Power Party demanded an independent counsel for a probe on the charge of dereliction of duty against Lee regarding the case, Lee made a counterdemand for a concurrent independent counsel probe, saying then ruling party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol was also entangled in suspicion over the case. In March, just before the presidential election, the Democratic Party also submitted a bill seeking a special counsel probe into the allegedly sloppy investigation by senior prosecutor Yoon into the Busan Savings Bank case in 2011. “If (the ruling party) rejects my demand, we should do it without fail even by mobilizing power that the Democratic Party possesses,” Lee also said. He is thus going all-out in his push even to seek a special probe on his party’s own through its majority seat in the National Assembly.
Prosecutors under the Moon Jae-in administration were conducting a probe into the Daejang-dong case before the presidential election, while prosecutors under the Yoon administration are investigating the same case after the election. Prosecutors in the current investigation claim that they have secured specific testimonies on Kim Yong’s acceptance of illicit pollical funds and memos showing the time, venues, and amounts that were paid to Kim. The prosecution is probing the case by clarifying the case as “presidential election funds.” Then presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang was not indicted in the party’s allegedly illicit presidential election fund in 2003. Citing this case, the Democratic Party has rejected the ongoing prosecutorial investigation by claiming this constitutes a retaliatory probe against the election loser. Still, the ruling party is countering the rejection saying that the investigation is necessary to address public suspicions over the case raised before the presidential election. Public opinions follow the truth. Prosecutors should fairly and sternly deal with the case regardless of controversy over an independent counsel probe within the political circle.
A prosecutorial investigation should not become a “black hole” that sucks in all different issues around people’s livelihoods. The concern is mounting over physical collision because a protest rally demanding “presidential impeachment” and a counter-protest rally are scheduled to take place on Saturday. The truth behind suspicions surrounding the Daejang-dong case should be uncovered without fail. The probe into this case, which belongs to the realm of law, should not lead to the collapse of politics.