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[Editorial] Delayed trial

1st hearing held on election meddling; Suspicions cannot be buried for good

A year and four months after the prosecution’s indictment, the first trial hearing was held Monday into the presidential office’s alleged meddling in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election.

Current Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho and 14 other former and incumbent public officials were indicted.

President Moon Jae-in once said it was his “wish” to see Song, his 30-year friend, elected as Ulsan mayor. According to the indictment, eight offices under Moon’s chief of staff became involved in a covert operation to get him elected.

They enticed a strong competitor of Song to give up his bid for nomination as the ruling Democratic Party of Korea’s Ulsan mayoral candidate. The party named Song as its candidate for Ulsan mayor without holding a primary.

Cheong Wa Dae officials plotted with Song to thwart one of the opposition party candidate’s major campaign pledges. Song asked the chief of the Ulsan police to investigate allegations involving the opposition party candidate. The police raided his office on the day he was to receive official nomination as the opposition party candidate.

Cheong Wa Dae provided the Ulsan police with information related to the opposition party candidate. Later, the chief of the Ulsan police was nominated as a ruling party candidate for the National Assembly and was elected as a lawmaker.

The prosecution indicted Song and 12 others in January last year, and added charges against two more people last month. Moon appointed a new justice minister in January last year, who dismantled teams investigating the allegations involving those close to Moon and relegated prosecutors of the teams to less important posts. The minister made unreasonable attempts to drive out the prosecutor general.

The judiciary’s decisions helped cover up for Song. It delayed the trial over and again.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su assigned the case to Judge Kim Mi-ri, a former member of a research society of progressive judges that Kim once chaired. The chief justice did not rotate the judge for four years, ignoring the practice of rotating judges every three years. He was effectively repaying Moon’s favor of appointing him as chief justice. Judge Kim held a handful of pretrial review hearings sporadically but not a trial hearing once. She abruptly took a three-month sick leave and a new panel of judges took over the case.

Cheong Wa Dae’s alleged meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election is one of the most serious allegations against the Moon regime. Attempts to influence elections destroy the foundation of democracy.

Investigations were suppressed and the trial was postponed to conceal the presidential office’s secret operation to get the president’s old friend elected as Ulsan mayor. Paradoxically, this reveals the seriousness of the crime.

The case is not the only scandal to hit Cheong Wa Dae. It is dogged by a raft of suspicions. Among them are the Optimus and Lime fund scams, data manipulation in an economic feasibility study of the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor, and external pressure on prosecutors to stop investigations into an illegal ban on former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui’s departure from the country.

Its will to uproot irregularities is questionable.

The Moon regime created the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials under the pretext of reforming the prosecution. However, the office disappointed people by giving special treatment to Lee Sung-yoon, chief prosecutor of the Seoul Central District, in summoning him for questioning in connection with illegal pressure on investigations into the ban on Kim Hak-eui’s overseas travel.

Justice Minister Park Beom-kye is a defendant accused of assault in connection with rival parties’ brawl over fast-tracking bills. At that time, Park was a ruling party lawmaker. Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu is a suspect under probe by the prosecution and the police for assaulting a taxi driver. Prosecutor General nominee Kim Oh-soo was investigated by the prosecution in writing in connection with the illegal ban on Kim Hak-eui’s foreign travel.

As suspicions grow, so will accusations. And the Moon regime will try harder to dawdle on scandals, but it is impossible to hide them for good. Someday the truth will see the light.