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[Editorial] Investigators’ showdown

Time to recoup credibility before public frustration crosses point of no return

Nov. 25, 2016 - 16:30 By 이현주
Citizens are closely watching the prosecution’s movements over its investigation into the Park Geun-hye scandal. The ongoing probe is offering a timely opportunity for the agency to regain some of its recently plummeted public credibility.

Some still criticize the prosecutors saying that they are pretending to work after succumbing to the public’s anger over its belated investigation into the influence-peddling involving the incumbent president and her civilian friend Choi Soon-sil. In contrast, it seems that more and more citizens are heartened by their latest actions to arrest or indict suspects and raid a secretarial office at Cheong Wa Dae.

There are a few urgent issues that the prosecution should deal with to implement justice.

The biggest priority is trying to interrogate Park face-to-face before the launch of the independent counsel. Park’s attorney, Yoo Young-ha, has twice rejected the prosecution’s calls for an in-person investigation.

After designating Park as a suspect, the agency again called on Yoo to meet the deadline of Nov. 29 to coordinate with the investigation. While Yoo has yet to clarify his stance on whether to follow the de facto ultimatum, interest is growing as to whether the prosecution will seek to arrest the incumbent president, by asking the court to issue a warrant, if Park turns down the request again.

Criminal suspects cannot enjoy exemption from investigations regardless of their social status. A forcible summons should be contemplated as the president has failed to give a convincing excuse for rejecting the prosecutor’s calls.

Handing over the case to the independent counsel by giving up on the interrogation of Park would injure its reputation. There is a high possibility that she is a central culprit, rather than just an accomplice, in the corruption scandal.

As for other suspected accomplices, prosecutors should make a full-fledged effort to attain the forcible repatriation of Chung Yoo-ra, the daughter of Choi Soon-sil, who was indicted earlier this month. The National Assembly has also named Chung as a witness for the parliamentary investigation and hearings, slated for next month.

The mother and daughter’s testimony is very important to verify Park’s allegations involving bribery and other violations of the law.

The investigative agency’s probe of Woo Byung-woo -- who resigned from the position of senior presidential secretary for civil affairs in late October -- has also caught the public’s eye. Even though the prosecution has issued an overseas travel ban on Woo, it has yet to indict him.

Woo is alleged to have neglected his duties in looking into the previous scandal of Jeong Yun-hoe, a confidante of Park and the ex-husband of Choi, which also dealt a blow to Cheong Wa Dae in 2014. Other allegations include his mother-in-law’s shady relations with Choi, leaking information on the prosecution’s investigation into Lotte Group and dodging his income taxes.

Woo worked as a state prosecutor until 2012, and served for the Blue House from May 2014.

Many citizens describe Woo as “little Kim Ki-chun,” who was the presidential chief of staff in the Park Geun-hye administration. Kim, 77, has been suspected of having built the behind-the-scenes relations with Choi over the past years. He continues to dismiss this.

Some opposition lawmakers allege that Kim might stand at the center of the scandal, along with Park and Choi. There is an urgent need for prosecutors to look into whether Kim, a former Justice Minister, masterminded the irregular operations of administrative affairs.

One allegation is that Kim could be implicated for concealing the mysterious whereabouts of Park when the Sewol ferry disaster occurred on April 16, 2014. Some allege that he is still advising the embattled president even after the Park scandal initially hit the nation on Oct. 24, 2016.

The patience of the majority of people, including nationwide demonstrators, is running out due to Park and her colluders’ impudence, despite mounting calls for her to quit before being impeached. Still, they are pinning their hopes on the prosecution.