Posted : 2013-09-15 17:32
Updated : 2013-09-15 17:32

President faces big, critical challenge

Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook
By Jun Ji-hye

President Park Geun-hye faces a test, perhaps the toughest so far in her presidency, in dealing with top prosecutor Chae Dong-wook's resignation.

Unless dealt with adroitly, President Park may see a dramatic turn in public opinion against her, lose her initiative over the opposition and eventually suffer from a setback in her political agenda, something close to a candlelit vigil for her predecessor Lee Myung-bak.

Of course, her public relations team is better than that of President Lee's, announcing that Chae's resignation was not accepted and any action on the prosecutor general would come after the truth is uncovered. It remains to be seen whether the crisis management operation will prove to be successful.

Chae quit Friday after the Justice Ministry unilaterally told reporters that Chae would be investigated by an independent party over allegations that he fathered an 11-year-old son with his paramour.

The top prosecutor denied the allegations published by the Chosun Ilbo, and vowed legal actions against the daily and promised take a DNA test to prove his claim.

Rumors and reports abounded that Cheong Wa Dae had applied pressure on Chae to step down over the reports. Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn also told Chae that he would be subject to a probe. Such a probe would be unprecedented.

By some indications, the damage has already been done.

The main opposition Democratic Party (DP) has turned up the pressure on Cheong Wa Dae, with its leader Kim Han-gil vowing to include Chae as an issue he will raise when he meets President Park today.

Kim and the DP are often outsmarted by the ruling Saenuri Party, never having been able to take any initiative in partisan affairs. Park has ignored Kim's repeated calls for a summit and left the opposition leader looking hapless.

"It is the start of a new reign of terror," Kim said in a press conference at his makeshift headquarters in downtown Seoul.

Rank-and-file prosecutors are also showing signs of organizing themselves, obviously fearing that it is an attempt to have them at their beck and call. Prosecutors are often called "maidens of power" for their history of being used as tools by those in power to suppress political opponents.

A key lieutenant of Chae also resigned in protest.

There is no way of telling whether the prosecutors' protest will spread.

Also, there were rumors that Cheong Wa Dae didn't favor Chae.

In June, the prosecution indicted Won Sei-hoon, a former chief of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), and Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan for violating the Election Law after its investigation of the NIS's meddling in the Dec. 19 presidential election. The two had allegedly mobilized NIS agents to post critical rumors on the Internet to discredit Rep. Mon Jae-in, then DP's presidential candidate.

President Park won the election.

Chae also won public confidence with the in depth investigation into the family of disgraced former President Chun Doo-hwan to collect Chun's unpaid 167.2 billion won ($154 million) fine. The family recently made a public pledge that they will pay off the fine.

The opposition says there is little possibility that Hwang alone made the decision without prior consultation with the presidential office to conduct an internal investigation of Chae, because such an order was construed as a direct coercion for his voluntary resignation.

Bae Jong-chan, a director at the department of social research at Research & Research, said it is understandable that Cheong Wa Dae and the NIS are suspected of being behind the removal of Chae as the timing of revelation is correlated with other relevant issues.

"Why the conservative daily is now making the report public although they probably had the information involving Chae's illegitimate son for a while is liable to lead to many doubts, as the NIS and Cheong Wa Dae were put in a defensive corner following the prosecution's investigation into the NIS election meddling scandal," said Bae.

He added Cheong Wa Dae's silence tends to worsen the situation.

"If it was not involved in the resignation of the top prosecutor, it needs to offer a clear explanation to settle the controversy, otherwise the Park government could be in danger as such silence could lead to the conclusion that she does not intend to communicate with the public," Bae said.

관련 한글 기사

민주, '채동욱 사퇴' 진상조사ㆍ관련자 경질 요구

 '국정원사건 덮기ㆍ무죄만들기 프로젝트…황 법무 등 경질해야'

김한길, 내일 긴급 회견…당내 일각 '3자회담 거부' 주장도

    민주당은 14일 채동욱 전 검찰총장의 사퇴를 둘러싼 사태를 '국정원 사건 덮기와 무죄 만들기 프로젝트 차원에서 벌어진 일'이라고 규정하고 철저한 진상조사와 황교안 법무장관 등 관련자들의 경질을 요구했다.

    김관영 수석대변인은 이날 오후 긴급브리핑을 하고 '청와대가 직접 나선 것으로 알려지고 있는 이번 채동욱 총장 몰아내기는 신 유신의 부활을 알리는 서곡이자, 검찰을 권력의 시녀로 만들려는 공작정치의 부활'이라고 주장했다.

    그러면서 '이번 사태는 누가 보더라도 청와대가 각본과 주연을 담당하고 황교안 법무부장관이 조연을 담당한 국정원 사건 덮기와 무죄 만들기 프로젝트 차원에서 벌어진 일'이라며 '물러날 사람은 채동욱 검찰총장이 아니라 황교안 법무장관과 김기춘 청와대 비서실장, 홍경식 민정수석'이라고 말했다.

    김 대변인은 '청와대는 분노가 들불처럼 더 타오르기 전에 국민에게 진상을 조사하고 사실을 이실직고하고 사죄해야 한다'면서 '경질될 사람은 채동욱이 아니라 이번 밀어내기 사건에 관련된 사람들'이라고 밝혔다.

    이와 관련, 민주당 김한길 대표는 15일 오전 11시 긴급 기자회견을 하고 이번 사태에 대한 입장과 함께 오는 16일 예정된, 박근혜 대통령ㆍ새누리당 황우여 대표와 자신의 '국회 3자회담' 참석여부에 대해서도 입장을 밝힐 것으로 알려졌다.

    민주당 관계자는 '김 대표는 회견에서 3자회담에 예정대로 참석해 이번 채 전 총장 사퇴문제를 공식 의제로 거론할 지, 3자회담을 아예 거부하고 불참할 지 입장을 밝힐 것'이라고 말했다.

    김 대표는 기자회견에 앞서 15일 오전 최고위원회의와 중진회의를 긴급 소집, 당내 여론을 청취할 계획이다.

    이와관련, 당 핵심 관계자는 연합뉴스와의 통화에서 '당내에는 김 대표가 3자회담에서 채 전 총장 사퇴 문제를 강력하게 거론해야 한다는 얘기도 있지만 현 상황에서 김 대표의 3자회담 참석 자체에 대해 회의적인 시각도 많다'고 말했다.

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