Korea Herald Editorial
There are two things that must be done regarding the influence-peddling and corruption scandal involving President Park Geun-hye and her associates: Removing Park from her office and getting to the bottom of all the allegations.
There is no doubt that Park’s exit should come as soon as possible and in as stable a way as possible. Unfortunately, that is unlikely, in view of the latest developments, including the divisions among major political leaders over Park’s fate.
What is also important — regardless of the pace of work to force Park out of Cheong Wa Dae — is to find out all the truths behind the scandal, which has left the entire nation in limbo for more than a month.
It is important because Park, instead of reflecting on herself, is trying to hide facts and deny her own wrongdoings.
Since the scandal broke over a month ago, Park and her aides – and more recently her defense attorney – have tried to defend her from a mountain of allegations, including those that she and her associates extorted money from conglomerates and leaked classified government and presidential documents out of Cheong Wa Dae.
Park herself said previously that conglomerates gave the money to two nonprofit foundations controlled by her longtime friend Choi Soon-sil “out of good intentions.”
In his third national address Tuesday, in which she offered to leave her fate to the National Assembly, Park admitted that she “failed to manage properly” the people around her, but she did not forget to say she did not do anything seriously wrong or illegal.
Park said that the foundation projects were undertaken with the belief that they were good for the nation. She went on to say that she had never sought personal gains throughout her 18-year political career and that she had only worked for the interest of the nation.
One can easily guess that Park bore in mind the accusations that she played a leading role in raising funds for the foundations and allowing Choi, who did not have any official position, to interfere with government affairs, abuse her power and seek personal gains.
State prosecutors who delved into the scandal have already said that Park – who they called an “accomplice” — is suspected of having conspired with Choi, former Cheong Wa Dae aides An Chong-bum and Jeong Ho-seong in the fundraising and document leaks.
With Park obviously bent on denying any direct role in those cases, the job of proving that she is lying has been transferred to the independent counsel – former senior prosecutor Park Young-soo – who started his work Thursday.
The counsel said that he would do his best to find the truths without confining the scope of investigation or considering the ranks and positions of those involved in the scandal. He also said he would not be swayed by any partisan interest.
True, fairness and objectivity are essential in investigating a politics-charged scandal like this. Just think about how contentious and divisive the rival parties would be in the separate parliamentary investigation that has just started.
As the counsel said, his team has a historic mission of saving the nation from an unprecedented crisis. The success or failure of the investigation – which could last up to 120 days — will be determined by whether it could prove what specific misdeeds Park committed.
One-on-one interrogation of the president is essential in this regard. Park, who had eaten her words and refused the state prosecution’s bid to question her personally, said that she would comply with the independent counsel’s investigation and explain what had happened in detail. This should come as soon as possible.
The investigation team also must look into Park’s aides who had been wide of probe by state prosecutors. Former Cheong Wa Dae Chief of Staff Kim Ki-chun and former top civil affairs aide Woo Byung-woo should top the list as they are suspected of having abused their authority and been derelict in their duties to prevent people close to the president from committing misdeeds.
Counsel Park is the first-ever independent counsel to investigate a case involving a sitting president. His work is important not only for the sake of the truth but also it would lay a basis for possible indictment of Park after she steps down from her post, which would deprive her of constitutional immunity.