|Democratic Party lawmaker Park Beom-kye shows documents related to the prosecution’s alleged fabrication of evidence in a high-profile espionage case during a session of the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee on Monday. (Yonhap)|
Political controversy escalated on Monday over allegations the prosecution fabricated evidence in a high-profile espionage case, as the main opposition Democratic Party called for a special-counsel probe into it.
The ruling Saenuri Party berated the DP for politically exploiting the case concerning national security to attack the state investigators and undermine public trust toward the government.
The parties’ clash came after the Chinese Embassy in Seoul said last week that evidence the prosecution has submitted to an appellate court to level charges against an alleged North Korean spy, was false.
The prosecution turned the evidence so far to the Seoul High Court immigration records from Chinese authorities to confirm that Yoo Woo-seong, the accused, returned to the North in May 2006, and then entered China the next month for purported spying activities.
Having defected to the South in 2004, Yoo, a former Seoul City official, was indicted last February on the charges that he handed over to Pyongyang the personal data of some 200 North Korean defectors under the directives of the communist regime.
A Seoul district court cleared him of the charges last August, arguing that the prosecution’s evidence was not adequate enough to substantiate his charges of contravening the National Security Law.
The Chinese Embassy’s claim of the falsity of Yoo’s immigration documents has put the prosecution in a bind with opposition politicians sharpening their criticism of the prosecutors and state intelligence officials for “undemocratic, false accusations” against Yoo.
“It is an unbelievable reality that to concoct a story of a North Korean spy, foreign documents were fabricated. It is a kind of the fabrication never seen even when Korea was under a dictatorial rule,” said DP leader Kim Han-gil during the party’s Supreme Council meeting.
“We should sternly punish those responsible for the fabrication through a parliamentary probe and a special counsel inquiry into the case. Should the president reject our proposal, scars on our nation would only deepen.”
The Saenuri Party upbraided the DP for making the fabrication a “fait accompli” and using it as a chance to attack the ruling bloc which is urging the rival party to focus on the fact that national security was involved in the case.
“The opposition party is veering off from the gist of the case. Should his charges be confirmed and turn out to be true, this is a very serious case in terms of national security,” Choi Kyung-hwan, the floor leader of the ruling party, said during a meeting with senior party officials.
“If the records the prosecution turned in as evidence were concocted, then we can punish anyone responsible for that. But this case should not be politically exploited.”
Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn defended the prosecution, arguing that the investigators received the immigration documents through legitimate diplomatic channels.
“The evidence was submitted to the court after we took legitimate due procedures to obtain it,” he told a parliamentary session.
“We have sufficiently verified the authenticity of the documents, but the Chinese Embassy allegedly said it was forged. We will mobilize all possible means to ascertain the truth.”
A group of liberal-minded lawmakers, called the Lawyers for Democratic Society, called on the government to dismiss National Intelligence Service chief Nam Jae-joon, Justice Minister Hwang and Prosecutor-general Kim Jin-tae over the alleged fabrication of the documents.
It also called for a special probe by an independent counsel into the case.
“As the Chinese Embassy official confirmed that the documents were fabricated, the prosecution should acknowledge its wrongdoings, apologize to the victim and drop its appeals at court,” the group said in a press conference in Seoul.
By Song Sang-ho (firstname.lastname@example.org)