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2014-12-08 17:23
By Jun Ji-hye

President Park Geun-hye has twice made remarks referencing the “memogate” political fiasco that has captured the attention of the nation’s media.

She said, “The leak of internal memoranda from the presidential office was an unimaginable breach of national security.” She also remarked that “media reports that disclosed the document (at the center of the issue) were no better than tabloid gossip.”

In these comments, Park apparently attempted to defend her administration and settle a growing controversy over allegations that one of her former closest confidants, Jeong Yun-hoe, meddled in state affairs.

However, it seems inappropriate for the leader of a nation to make such remarks because they could affect an ongoing investigation by the prosecution.

Cheong Wa Dae is suing six people at the vernacular daily Segye Ilbo for libel, including its chief editor. The lawsuits were filed with the prosecution right after the newspaper first alleged in a report on Nov. 28 that Jeong interfered in state affairs by holding regular meetings with presidential secretaries although he had no job in officialdom. Decisions on the libel cases are expected to be decided at the end of this week.  

Referring to Park’s remarks, critics and opposition lawmakers claimed that she tried to present “guidelines” for the prosecution to follow during its investigation.

Their argument seems to be quite reasonable, given that the prosecutor general is appointed by the president.

Lawyer Geum Tae-seop, a former spokesman of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD), talked about his experience when he was working for the prosecution.

“Candidates for prosecutor general engage in a fierce power struggle when the season for personnel shakeups approaches,” Geum wrote on his Facebook page. “After being chosen by the president through this fierce fight, the selected person becomes highly appreciative of those who intervened during the selection process and then tries to show loyalty toward the president.”

Given this, Geum added, it is inevitable that it is hard for the prosecution to carry out an investigation which could damage the presidential office.

Regarding Park’s remarks over the scandal, prosecutors obviously may feel reluctant to present results that run counter to her comments in which she asserted that newspapers undermined her reputation with tabloid gossip.

The situation seems to be very similar to that of the captain of the sunken Sewol ferry, Lee Joon-seok.

Before the beginning of the trial on him, President Park publicly denounced the man, describing his actions as “tantamount to murder,” which negated any chance of a fair trial being conducted.

Of course, the man-made disaster in April, which resulted in the confirmed deaths of 295 passengers with nine others unaccounted for, was truly awful and provoked intense emotions and anger. But it was too much to simply label the crew killers.

Unsurprisingly, prosecutors sought murder charges for Lee, while the court did not find him guilty. The court sentenced the captain to 36 years in prison after finding him guilty of negligent manslaughter.

NPAD spokesman Rep. Park Soo-hyun, said, “The President’s remarks should be made after the prosecution wraps up its investigation.”

Follow Jun Ji-hye on Twitter @TheKopJihye


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