Time to reinvestigate illegal surveillance case
It is shocking to hear that the presidential office allegedly ordered an official at the Prime Minister’s Office to destroy evidence about illegal surveillance of a civilian in 2010. Speculation is growing again that Cheong Wa Dae might have been deeply implicated in the surveillance.
On Wednesday, Jang Jin-su, then-senior official with the public ethics division of the Prime Minister’s Office, claimed that he received the order from Choi Jong-seok, a labor affairs staff member at Cheong Wa Dae. The authorities have yet to confirm if his claim is true. But if it were true, the government and the prosecution should be held accountable for trying to cover up the case.
It’s time to reinvestigate the case to verify Jang’s revelations and shed new light on the unauthorized monitoring of Kim Jong-ik, former CEO of KB Hanmaum, a subsidiary of KB Financial Group. The scandal erupted in 2010 when Kim claimed that officials conducted surveillance on him because he posted video clips critical of President Lee Myung-bak on his blog in 2008.
There was speculation that the presidential office might have pulled the strings. But the prosecution hurriedly wound up its investigation, concluding that only several officials with the ethics division abused their power for surveillance on Kim. But it dismissed any allegations concerning Cheong Wa Dae’s involvement.
But now, Jang’s allegations again raise the question of the presidential office’s role in the case. Jang claims that Choi ordered him to destroy his computer with a hammer or dump it into the Han River. He also quoted Choi as saying that the presidential office struck a deal with the prosecution to overlook the destruction of evidence.
Jang even quoted Choi as suggesting that the prosecution insisted on the destruction. If these claims prove to be true, the prosecution must have colluded with the presidential office to systematically cover up the case. What a blatant obstruction of justice by a law enforcement agency! No one wants to see Jang’s claims as genuine but it seems hard to rule out the possibility of a cover-up attempt.
We urge the government and the prosecution to look into the case again in order to verify Jang’s allegations. If such a reinvestigation is considered insufficient, President Lee needs to consider appointing an independent counsel to dig deeper into the case and clear all suspicions.
The government should not act as Big Brother. Surveillance of the people is in defiance of the rule of law. It is a sheer violation of human rights and a denial of the Constitution. A cover-up attempt, if any, would be a grave threat to a law-abiding society. The prosecution should not and cannot be the servant of the powerful elite. It must maintain political independence to serve as a guardian of justice.