There are several good reasons for the state prosecution to hasten its investigation of former President Park Geun-hye over the influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving her and her confidante Choi Soon-sil.
Many of the allegations in the scandal have been verified by the investigation conducted by the state prosecution and the team of independent counsel Park Young-soo and -- more importantly -- the Constitutional Court’s verdict to oust Park as president.
There are 13 charges filed against Park -- eight by the state prosecution and five by the independent counsel -- but both of them could not indict her due to presidential immunity.
The top court corroborated some core charges -- including one that Park abused her power to help Choi make personal gains -- and stripped Park of presidential privileges.
Now it is the prosecution’s job to complete the investigation, indict Park and seek the judgement of the criminal court and the Supreme Court on all the charges and suspicions as early as possible. We would not be able to end this unbearable adversity until there comes the final judiciary judgement on Park.
Another reason for the prosecution to hurry up the investigation is that Park virtually rejected the Constitutional Court’s ruling. After returning to her private home Sunday, Park said that she believed that the “truth will come to light without fail.”
Obviously, Park, who had already repeatedly denied any serious misdeeds and wrongdoings on her part, is snubbing the top court’s unanimous decision and heralding a legal battle.
This raises the possibility that Park may have tampered with or destroyed evidence. Issuing its verdict, the Constitutional Court noted that Park lied and concealed facts.
The court also pointed out that Park did not keep her promise to undergo personal questioning by both the state prosecution and the independent counsel team and disallowed them to search the presidential office of Cheong Wa Dae.
Personal questioning of Park and a search of Cheong Wa Dae, which could be preceded by the prosecution’s tracking down of Park’s financial accounts or telephone records, are essential for shedding light on what wrongdoings Park committed while in office.
A timely investigation of Park is also necessary because she is at the center of almost every case related with the scandal. Choi and other key suspects -- such as Park’s former aides Kim Ki-choon and Ahn Jong-beom and Samsung’s de facto chief Lee Jae-yong -- are currently being tried, and the role Park played in each case should be a key factor in each trial.
For instance, the independent counsel put Lee, vice chairman of Samsung Electronics, into custody on charges of offering bribes to Choi in the form of donations to foundations and private firms that she controlled. The counsel charged that bribery was intended to secure government favors for the conglomerate.
Both Lee and Park denied the charge, with Park claiming that Samsung voluntarily offered the money for good causes and Lee insisting that his firm gave the money without soliciting anything in return. An investigation of Park would be crucial for determining whether there was a quid pro quo between her and Lee.
The upcoming presidential election is another factor that necessitates speedy investigation of Park. The election is most likely to be held May 9, and it is certain that Park’s impeachment and future developments around her will remain a key election issue.
Some already argue that investigation of Park should be delayed until the election because it could help liberal candidates gain a further upper hand in the election.
But the rule of law should precede politics, and this principle should be applied to Park’s case as well. And the earlier the prosecution completes an investigation of Park, including personal questioning, the lesser impact it would have on the election.