By Kim Rahn
Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin is under pressure to step down for his possible involvement in the government’s alleged surveillance on civilians critical of the Lee Myung-bak administration.
Both the opposition and ruling parties have called for his resignation, saying it is unlikely for the prosecution to fairly investigate the surveillance scandal that may include Kwon, a former Cheong Wa Dae official, as a suspect.
Kwon was senior secretary for civil affairs in 2009 when the presidential civil affairs office allegedly orchestrated the destruction of evidence for the surveillance scheme.
Since last month, the main opposition Democratic United Party (DUP) has demanded Kwon quit, saying it is a minimum condition for a fair investigation.
“Kwon, who was responsible for the monitoring and evidence destruction as civil affairs senior secretary, has already lost his authority and qualification as the head of the Justice Ministry,” DUP spokesman Park Yong-jin said.
“The prosecution is unlikely to conduct a proper investigation as long as Kwon stays. He should step down immediately, not obstructing the prosecutors’ probe,” he said.
The ruling Saenuri Party also decided to recommend Kwon’s resignation to Cheong Wa Dae. Park Geun-hye, head of the party’s interim leadership committee said last Friday, “It is important that surveillance on civilians should be rooted out. For that, anyone involved should be thoroughly investigated regardless of their rank, and those responsible should be heavily punished,” indicating that Kwon’s resignation is necessary for a fair investigation.
Kwon’s alleged involvement in the evidence destruction is based on a confession by Chang Jin-soo, a former official at the Prime Minister’s Office. According to Chang, who participated in the monitoring, when the prosecution first looked into the case in June 2010, a former Cheong Wa Dae staffer ordered him to destroy evidence and said the presidential civil affairs office and the prosecution had already agreed on how to fix things. Kwon was senior secretary at that time.
It has also been claimed that the presidential office ordered police to monitor entertainers critical of the Lee administration, including TV personality Kim Je-dong.
The Kyunghyang Shinmun said Monday it obtained a police’s report to Cheong Wa Dae. It showed the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency operated a special unit for looking into entertainment agency-related corruption from Sept. 1 to Oct. 31, 2009.
“During the investigation in the middle of September, a Cheong Wa Dae staffer in the civil affairs office gave us a list of specific entertainers and ordered us to investigate their corruption. So we conducted a separate probe,” the report showed.
Another report showed a month later: “Regarding Kim Je-dong’s leaving shows in October 2009, media had intensive reports on alleged suppression on ‘leftist’ entertainers. If we keep probing specific entertainers, we may be swept in argument on investigations targeting leftist entertainers. We reported the need to stop the probe to the civil affairs office.”
Regarding the report, presidential spokesman Park Jeong-ha said they are examining whether the allegations are true.