in

(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on April 20)

Suspicion grows on Lee

The voluntary appearance of Lee Seong-yun, the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, at the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office for investigation makes us wonder why he changed his position after persistently ignoring the district prosecutors’ office’s summoning as many as four times. Lee has been under suspicion over abuse of power to pressure an investigation team to issue an illegitimate travel ban on former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui before he tried to leave Incheon International Airport in 2019. Kim had been suspected of taking bribes from a businessman while on duty.

Legal circles link Lee’s about-turn to the move in the Blue House to nominate him as the next prosecutor general after Yoon Seok-youl resigned in protest of the government’s methodical obstruction of his investigations into corruption and abuse of power by the powers that be. In other words, Lee might have thought that he could be nominated to head the top law enforcement agency as long as he could delay his indictment until a nomination committee meeting is held. Once the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office decided to indict him without investigation, he rushed to the district office for investigation as a suspect.

If Lee’s appearance is related to the need to delay his indictment and get a nomination, that’s very inappropriate. An increasing number of people cast doubts on why the Blue House sticks with Lee as the next prosecutor general. A graduate from the same law school as President Moon Jae-in, Lee has been serving as one of the most pro-government prosecutors. President Moon wants to appoint him as the next prosecutor to block the prosecution’s persistent investigations into a plethora of suspicions, including the Blue House’s alleged intervention in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election and the government’s shutdown of the Wolseong 1 reactor.

Lee is infamous for provoking controversy by incomprehensible decisions, including an order to delay sensitive investigations by junior prosecutors to the extent of dealing a critical blow to the integrity of the investigations. He stirred controversy by demanding the prosecution hand over the case involving his abuse of power to the new Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) whose chief was appointed by Moon.

A day after his appearance at the district prosecutors’ office, Lee denied he had pressured an investigation team on the former vice justice minister and repeatedly demanded the case be transferred to the CIO. The prosecution must swiftly finish its investigation and determine whether to indict him. Until then, a nomination committee must not hold a meeting to recommend Lee as a candidate for the next prosecutor general.
(END)

Reference