The Korea Herald


[Editorial] Harassment signal

DP reveals identities of prosecutors probing allegations involving its leader

By Korea Herald

Published : Dec. 28, 2022 - 05:30

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The majority opposition Democratic Party of Korea recently disclosed the identities of prosecutors investigating allegations involving its leader Lee Jae-myung.

It is said to have distributed the list of prosecutors to its members and supporters via the internet.

The list shows the names, job titles, and photos of 16 prosecutors of Seoul Central District and Suwon District, the allegations they are investigating -- the Daejang-dong land speculation scandal, Ssangbangwool‘s suspicious payment of attorney fees that Lee should have paid, dubious donations to the Seongnam Football Club -- and their chain of command.

A shield-shaped mark with “Yoon‘s army” written on it to make it look like a military insignia was stamped beside 10 prosecutors’ photos.

But it turned out that some of the prosecutors have nothing to do with the cases involving Lee. One photo was found to be of the wrong person. The list seems to have been prepared in a hurry.

The party disclosed the list on Dec. 23, a day after the Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Prosecutor's Office summoned Lee to come to the branch on Dec. 28 for questioning. The branch is investigating allegations that, while Lee was mayor, Seongnam City received bribes from private-sector businesses in the form of contributions toward Seongnam Football Club in return for administrative favors such as construction permission and land rezoning. The Seongnam city administration bought the football club in 2014, while Lee was mayor. As mayor, Lee was the club’s chairman.

As investigations are closing in on Lee, the party seems to have revealed the prosecutors‘ identities in a bid to push back against the probe.

The names and job titles of prosecutors are not a state secret, but compiling those of prosecutors investigating certain cases and disclosing them oversteps the mark, and amounts to a veiled attack on prosecutors.

An individual may have a grudge against a prosecutor over an investigation, but it is far from common sense for a Korean political party, a majority one at that, to expose the identities of prosecutors investigating allegations involving one of its members.

It is not hard to guess why it disclosed identities of the prosecutors. It effectively gave a signal to Lee supporters and the party members to harass the prosecutors -- and their families. Supporters may try to uncover their phone numbers and bombard them with mobile texts or calls. Violent supporters may even attempt physical attacks.

Disclosing someone‘s identity on the internet intentionally is a typical dirty trick to induce collective digital lynching.

The party says it did nothing wrong because it just gathered publicly available scattered data and argues that it did so to let people know who was destroying the party, but most Koreans would not think so. They would feel that the disclosure was repugnant.

Prosecutors are not suppressing the party‘s political activities but doing their job of investigating allegations. Lee was summoned for questioning because of his own issues. The party has nothing to do with suspicions currently under investigation. All of the allegations in question occurred when Lee was Seongnam mayor or Gyeonggi governor. It was before he became a lawmaker of the party. The Democratic Party is not his private group. It is reasonable to back off from investigations into unrelated allegations.

Critics say Lee became a lawmaker of the party and then its leader to make it hard to arrest him. He may have expected people to rally around him if he keeps condemning the prosecution investigating allegations involving him. But that has not happened yet. Instead, growing voices within the party say that it must not expose itself to the risks associated with his personal legal problems. The allegations involving him are wide-ranging. His close confidants were arrested according to the court decision. Testimonies and related evidence prosecutors have gathered are tightly intertwined.

The Democratic Party’s disclosure of prosecutors’ identities may be unlawful. Its intent is clear: to intimidate prosecutors and impede their investigation. This may constitute obstruction of justice. This low blow cannot be overlooked.