[ed] Fair and thorough probe

Removing outside pressure is key to uncovering truth

The prosecution is stepping up its probe into an alleged corruption scandal disclosed by a construction tycoon just before he committed suicide. Following a raid on the headquarters of Keangnam Enterprises Wednesday, investigators are poised to summon the confidants of Sung Woan-jong, the builder’s former chairman. Among them is a former vice president of Keangnam, who allegedly delivered 100 million won to South Gyeongsang Province Governor Hong Joon-pyo in 2011 when he was running for the ruling Saenuri Party chairmanship.

The prosecution is also considering summoning former campaign officials of Prime Minister Lee Wan-koo over allegations that Sung gave 30 million won to Lee in 2013 when he was running in a by-election.

Given the weight of the eight top politicians, including former and current presidential chiefs of staff and the current prime minister, who were named in Sung’s bribery list, this case will certainly be the worst corruption scandal ever But its implications will be far greater if the ongoing investigation widens to the opposition. A vernacular paper has already reported the possible implication of several politicians from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy in the graft scandal.

Considering that it’s difficult to trace corruption cases involving politicians where bribes are usually offered in cash, the prosecution’s special team, led by senior prosecutor Mun Mu-il, will face a multitude of hurdles in its investigation. But the prosecutors should do what they can to reveal the truth through a fair and thorough probe.

It’s quite natural that President Park Geun-hye committed herself to using every possible means to get to the bottom of the scandal, including naming an independent counsel, during a meeting with Saenuri Chairman Kim Moo-sung, Thursday.

As things stand now, it would be better to let the prosecution conduct the investigation swiftly before discussing launching an independent probe. That’s partly because it could take months before the ruling and opposition parties reach an agreement to do this.

It’s needless to say that the prosecution should crack down on bribery cases involving opposition lawmakers if some are found to be implicated in the ongoing scandal. We cannot rule out this possibility, considering that Sung, a self-made businessman, had expanded his business by distributing money to both ruling and opposition politicians.

At this juncture, the most important thing is to ensure the independence and neutrality of the special team so that it can investigate freely without outside pressure.

To this end, it will be critical to stop the prosecution from reporting the results of its investigation to Cheong Wa Dae and the Ministry of Justice. This is all the more necessary, given that Prime Minister Lee and presidential Chief of Staff Lee Byung-kee are on the bribery list.

Also, there is a need to abolish the practice requiring prosecutors to frequently report on the progress of the probe to the prosecutor-general. Instead, the top prosecutor should be briefed only on the final results of the investigation.

SOURCE: The Korea Times

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