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Posted : 2012-03-14 17:04
Updated : 2012-03-14 17:04

Watergate of Korea

Only answer is to reopen it from the ground up

In any country, warrantless spying by government employees on civilians is bad enough.

By most appearances, Cheong Wa Dae tried to cover up such an illegal surveillance case here in 2010, and public prosecutors even proposed the destruction of evidence. Is Korea really a country where the rule of law is alive, as President Lee Myung-bak stresses?

Most Koreans were skeptical two years ago when the prosecution wrapped up its investigation by indicting just a couple of low-echelon officials. Even the nation’s top prosecutor at the time admitted it was an ``unsuccessful investigation.” The then Minister of Justice Lee Kwi-nam vowed to reopen the case if and when new evidence cropped up.

That makes it all the more incomprehensible why the prosecution now keeps silent that one of the suspects has just provided decisive evidence ― a recorded conversation ― testifying to Cheong Wa Dae’s involvement.

Questions continue: How much longer should people wait before they complete ``verifying” the new evidence? Is the prosecution’s reluctance related with the rumors that a person up high in the Blue House, one belongs to the ``Young-Po line” (President Lee’s hometown of the Yeongdeok-Pohang area), masterminded the unlawful monitoring of a private businessman who posted video clips critical of Lee on his blog in 2008?

An opposition floor leader is right when he described the case as the Watergate scandal of the Lee administration, in which Cheong Wa Dae instructed, the Prime Minister’s Office acted and state prosecutors covered up. To ease these suspicions, the prosecution should reexamine the case from the ground up. The problem is not only the prosecution will not budge, but even if they did, the public would not trust the law enforcement authorities.

Political opponents call for President Lee to appoint a special counsel or the National Assembly activate a parliamentary probe panel. We agree. There are no other ways to regain the public’s trust in the nation’s law enforcement function and restore its democracy, which has suffered serious setbacks under the incumbent administration.

The proposed independent counsel or Assembly panel should investigate whether there have been more unwarranted spying cases on civilians ― there is a strong possibility given the military intelligence officers’ monitoring of labor activists ― as well as who is the highest officials who orchestrated the surveillance cover-up.

At the root of all this is the perennial ― but never realized ― call for reforming the politicized prosecution. Koreans have long joked prosecutors are ``wolves against fading power, and lambs for rising power.” The same prosecutors who have even summoned former heads of state have spared no efforts to visit the incumbent National Assembly speaker in its investigations. Likewise, they start probes into the daughter of a former president the moment they receive complaints, while putting off a similar case for months involving a son of the incumbent leader.

The Assembly ought to make a bipartisan drive to reform the prosecution by dispersing its organization, weakening its power and depoliticizing its personnel management. There should be no ideological difference in rebuilding the rule of law for the country. Especially so, since no party can remain in power for good.

And there is no better time than the election season for reform.

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