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[Editorial] Disregard for law

Probe needed for alleged election law breach

July 22, 2016 - 18:10 By 조혜림
The ruling Saenuri Party can hardly be seen as a respecter of the law, as its leaders are turning a blind eye to allegations that close aides to President Park Geun-hye illegally intervened in candidate nomination for the April 13 general election.

Earlier this week, a local news outlet revealed transcripts of conversations between Kim Sung-hoi, a Saenuri candidate for the Hwaseong C district of Gyeonggi Province, and Reps. Yoon Sang-hyun and Choi Kyung-hwan, who are close aides to Park. 

It also disclosed phone conversations between Kim and Hyun Ki-hwan, Park’s senior secretary for political affairs at the time.

Kim at first intended to run in Hwaseong A District as he won the 2008 election in that constituency. If he had sought nomination for this district, he would have competed with Suh Chung-won, another trusted aide to Park.

According to the transcripts, the three president’s aides had pressured Kim to change his constituency to ensure that Suh would be nominated in that district with ease.

Yoon tried to persuade Kim to change his mind, assuring him that he would be nominated if he ran in a new constituency. He also threatened Kim that he would face investigations over alleged misconduct when he was head of the Korea District Heating Corp.

Choi and Hyun also told Kim that he would be nominated if he decided to run in a district other than Hwaseong A, suggesting that that was the president’s intention.

Kim changed his constituency to Hwaseong C, but failed to win a nomination. He seems to have decided to disclose the transcripts of his conversations with the three individuals to take revenge on them.

Kim’s act hardly deserves praise, but the transcripts are not something that should be dismissed. Yet Saenuri’s floor leader Rep. Chung Jin-suk said the party would neither launch an investigation to establish the truth nor seek punishment against Reps. Yoon and Choi.

Dismissing demands for an investigation from the party’s nonmainstreamers, Chung said it was not time for the party to indulge in factional strife. 

However, the transcripts clearly show that the three aides to Park breached the Public Official Election Act, which punishes anyone who blackmails, seduces or pays off a candidate in connection with an intra-party competition.

Hyun’s remarks should be taken more seriously than those of the two lawmakers as they could be seen as the president’s intervention in the nomination process.

The National Election Commission and the prosecution should investigate the case and deal with the three president’s aides in accordance with the law.