Lee's moment of truth
Prosecutors should investigate Cheong Wa Dae
The probe into government officials’ illegal surveillance of private citizens seems to be entering a crucial and irreversible phase.
A classified document from the Prime Minister’s Office showed Wednesday the controversial ethics team, the epicenter of the whole scandal, was in fact a secret organization that directly supports and protects President Lee Myung-bak. Composed almost entirely of officials from Lee’s hometown, the team defined itself as a ``separate secret line that gives its fealty to the VIP (President) with one mind.”
This shifts the focus of popular concern from whether the President was aware of the unwarranted spying scandal to whether he received reports on their activities, directly or indirectly, was involved in the cover-up attempts, or even instructed the activation of the special unit.
Cheong Wa Dae officials still deny Lee’s receipt of such reports, but it makes no sense to think their final destination was the President’s chief of staff, not the top man himself. A report by weekly magazine Hankyoreh 21 quoted an unnamed government source as saying Lee was so fond of their reports that he used to sit up late at night reading them.
The latest document also indicated Justice Minister Kwon Jae-jin, then senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, might have been excluded from the separate team’s ``reporting line.”
Yet that hardly means Kwon was free from the subsequent cover-up either, as most circumstantial evidence indicates he couldn’t avoid involvement in hiding facts and destroying evidence. There is widespread suspicion that Kwon’s adherence to his current post despite all the allegations surrounding him is not of his will but because of instructions from Cheong Wa Dae to minimize the impact of the ongoing investigations of the President.
All this, however, only enhances the necessity for the prosecution to investigate Cheong Wa Dae and summon its own boss for questioning.
Illicit surveillance of private citizens, or even public figures such as elected and appointed officials without justifiable reasons, is far graver a crime than corruption involving money, as it erodes the national foundation.
We have urged President Lee to tell all he knows about the ominous scandal and apologize to the people if necessary. The chief executive must do so before it’s too late. Or the scandal will follow him like a shadow even after he vacates the Blue House, when a mere confession and apology won’t do.
What the ongoing incident stresses is the need for Korean voters to elect leaders with thorough public consciousness in exercising the power people bestow upon them. It was disappointing in this regard to hear Rep. Park Geun-hye, the ruling camp’s strongest presidential hopeful, trying to water down the seriousness of the scandal, saying such activities were common in all previous administrations.
What Park didn’t say was from where it all started ― with her own father ― and how she will be different. It’s up to voters to judge.