Regarding the Seongnam FC sponsorship suspicion, Democratic Party (DP) leader Lee Jae-myung appeared at the Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Prosecutor's Office yesterday. For the first time in constitutional history, the incumbent chief of the 1st opposition party was summoned to face an investigation by the prosecution. During his tenure as mayor of Seongnam, Lee permitted six companies in the jurisdiction, including Doosan Engineering & Construction, to change the use of the construction site and make them pay 16 billion won in donations to Seongnam FC.
The DP chief lashed out at the prosecution and the government for about 10 minutes in front of the prosecution office, saying, “A judicial coup that cooks up crimes that do not exist” and “An investigation summons is a trap dug by the prosecution.” Lee was accompanied by the leadership of the Democratic Party and about 40 lawmakers, which appeared to highlight the fact that the investigation was aimed at suppressing the opposition party, not Lee himself. In response, the ruling People Power Party criticized it as “a victim cosplay” and “a strategy to seemingly achieve an honorable death with the criminal suspect Lee Jae-myung.” Around 1,000 people including Lee supporters and members of conservative organizations gathered around the government building to hold a protest, which looked like a confrontation between liberals and conservatives over the investigation of Lee.
What lies at the bottom of the case is whether financial dealings were involved between the provision of convenience to companies and the sponsorship of Seongnam FC. The prosecution applied the crime of bribery to a third party, considering that Lee had companies sponsor Seongnam FC as a condition of accepting their requests, such as changing the floor area ratio. When prosecuting a former high-ranking public official in Seongnam City last year in connection with donations from Doosan Engineering & Construction, the prosecution wrote in the indictment that they “conspired with Lee and others.”
Lee refuted this, saying, “(The prosecution) insists that the advertising funds received after signing a legitimate contract is sponsorship.” Attracting a company and winning an advertisement order for Seongnam FC are separate matters, but the prosecution argues that it was forcibly put together. The DP insisted, “Prosecution uncovered even cases that were cleared of charges to start suppressing the opposition party.” They are taking issue with the fact that the case was dismissed once by the police and then re-investigated at the prosecution's request.
Of course, the investigation into the opposition party leader must be cautious, but if the investigative agency determines that there is suspicion, it must proceed in line with prescribed procedures. Whether receiving donations is a crime should be determined by evidence, not assertion. It is a judicial procedure to decide whether or not to prosecute through legal battles on statements and data and to correct problems with a court ruling. There is and should not be room for politics to intervene in this process.