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People’s Party struggles to contain scandal

The People’s Party declared Monday it would officially request a special prosecutorial probe into its fake tip-off during the presidential election and the allegation that President Moon Jae-in’s son had received special treatment in the hiring process of a public agency.

As the crisis deepened over the allegation that the party’s leadership was involved in fabricating evidence on the allegation against Moon’s son, the 40-member People’s Party decided to propose a special prosecution investigation on the scandal. 

People's Party (Yonhap)
People's Party (Yonhap)

“The allegation over Moon Joon-yong receiving special treatment should clearly be investigated along with the fabrication case,” the party revealed in a statement. “We propose for both cases to go through a thorough probe, not by the prosecution loyal to the new government, but by a special prosecutor.”

After the prosecution filed an arrest warrant Sunday against Lee Joon-seo, a former member of the party’s supreme council, the party lashed out at the prosecution, accusing it of being unfair and being influenced by the ruling Democratic Party of Korea.

The 39-year-old is suspected of “willfully neglecting” the possibility that an anonymous tip-off delivered by one of its rank-and-file members was fabricated.

An internal probe committee of the People’s Party had concluded that the fabrication was the lone act of its member Lee Yoo-mi, who admitted to fabricating evidence to implicate the younger Moon.

While Lee Yoo-mi is already in custody, the prosecution filed for an arrest warrant for her brother Sunday. Her brother allegedly cooperated with her in making the recording that was presented by the party as evidence of Moon Joon-yong receiving favors.

During the presidential election in May, rival parties raised the allegation that President Moon Jae-in’s son was unfairly hired by a public agency in 2006 with the help of his father. The People’s Party used what turned out to be fabricated testimony of a friend of the son.

Over the prosecution’s decision to arrest the former supreme council member, the party fired back, saying that the ruling party leader is unfairly influencing the probe.

“What our internal investigation body found out goes in line with what the prosecutors have confirmed, that the fabrication was an independent crime act by Lee Yoo-mi,” the interim chief of the People’s Party said in a local radio interview Monday.

“We cannot but suspect that the prosecution’s investigation is operated under the guidelines of the ruling Democratic Party’s leader Choo Mi-ae.”

Rep. Choo had condemned the centrist opposition, saying that it was impossible for the party’s leadership to not have known about the fabrication, implying that the internal probe result was an attempt to cut Lee Yoo-mi’s ties with leadership figures.

“The leaders must have known (about the fabrication.) They are also responsible for ‘willful negligence,’ to spread evidence under the name of its fair election committee,” the ruling party’s head said in a party meeting Thursday.

In protest, the People’s Party declared a boycott of all parliamentary proceedings.

If the arrest warrant for former supreme council member Lee Joon-seo is granted Tuesday, the party’s leadership, which includes its former chief Park Jie-won and former presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo, will not be able to avoid investigation.

Meanwhile, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party also criticized the prosecution for investigating only the fabrication scandal and not the allegation on Moon Jae-in’s son.

“The leader of the ruling party is avoiding the core of this issue. The important point is whether Moon Joon-yong was offered special treatment in entering the public agency, not whether there was trivial fabrication of evidence,” the conservative party’s chief Hong Joon-pyo said at a party meeting.

He said it is inappropriate for the ruling party to attack the People’s Party, which led to a halt to legislative procedures, citing that the ruling party’s stance contributed to the boycott.

By Jo He-rim (