Lee Jae-myung, the new leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea, condemned the prosecution on Friday for summoning him over suspicions that he spread false information in violation of the election law.
He was called to show up at a prosecution office on Tuesday for a voluntary interview with prosecutors.
He said the prosecution was trying to pick holes off the mark in what he said, now that it found nothing wrong about him personally.
The party has reacted strongly against the investigation of its leader, alluding to political retaliation and oppression. But the summons has nothing to do with retaliation or oppression. The investigation began under the previous administration.
It became an inevitable procedure to summon Lee as the prosecution resumed its investigation of allegations involving him after suspending it during the presidential campaign to avoid influencing the election.
Above all, the statute of limitations will run out on Friday. It’s likely that the prosecution could no longer afford to postpone the summons.
As governor of Gyeonggi Province, Lee told the National Assembly last October that he could not help converting the usage of a site owned by the Korea Food Research Institute in Seongnam’s Baekhyun-dong because of pressure from the Land Ministry under President Park Geun-hye when he was mayor of Seongnam. Seongnam permitted the construction of an apartment complex on the site, according to controversial procedures.
However, a ministry document was later found showing the ministry had said in a reply to a question from Seongnam that it was up to the city to decide on the land use conversion. There were no threats from the former Park administration.
Lee also said that as Seongnam mayor he did not know the late Kim Moon-ki, the former head of a division of Seongnam Development Corp., because Kim was a “low-ranking employee.” The public corporation affiliated with Seongnam was involved in a massive land development corruption scandal. The division he headed dealt with the project to develop a site in Daejang-dong, Seongnam. Contrary to his words, several disclosed photos show Lee was on an 11-day overseas business trip with an entourage that included Kim. Lee was also photographed awarding a citation to Kim.
The prosecution is reportedly checking if his remarks constitute an election law offense of spreading false information to voters.
Though Lee blamed the prosecution for picking flaws that are off the mark, its investigation is far from nonsense. Lee is involved in other allegations as well.
Ssang Bang Wool, a clothing company, is suspected of paying attorney fees to scores of lawyers on Lee’s behalf for defending him successfully in a trial on suspicions he lied during a TV debate among candidates for Gyeonggi provincial governor.
In addition to the Daejang-dong and Baekhyun-dong development scandals, Seongnam under Lee is suspected of giving unlawful favors to sponsors of a professional soccer club owned by the city.
An apartment unit rented by Gyeonggi Housing & Urban Development Corp. to house employees is suspected of being used as a secret office for his presidential campaign when he was Gyeonggi governor.
His wife is accused of using the provincial government’s credit cards for personal use.
The prosecution recently raided a construction company and financial institutions in connection with a corruption scandal involving a new town development in Wirye, Seongnam.
It has become unavoidable to question Lee directly as a witness or suspect.
When it comes to complying with a government agency's request for judicial cooperation, a political leader should be no different from a member of the general public. Rather, a political leader should set an example.
He has denied or ignored allegations, saying, “I have nothing to do with the allegations,” or, “I know nothing about the suspects.”
If Lee believes he is innocent, it would be reasonable to have the prosecution interview and vindicate himself. The Democratic Party must stop mentioning political retaliation or oppression, and urge the prosecution to clarify suspicions involving its leader.