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[Editorial] Trial delayed

First trial on Ulsan election interference ends 3 years, 10 months after indictment

By Korea Herald

Published : Sept. 14, 2023 - 05:30

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The first-trial court trying the case of former President Moon Jae-in's Cheong Wa Dae staff allegedly intervening in the June 2018 Ulsan mayoral election is finally set to pronounce a ruling -- three years and 10 months after the prosecution’s indictments.

The prosecution on Monday asked the court to sentence former Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho and an opposition party lawmaker, Hwang Un-ha, to six and five years behind bars, respectively, in connection with the case.

The prosecution also requested jail sentences for 13 others, including Moon's former senior secretary for political affairs and civil affairs secretary.

The first-trial hearings came to an end more than five years after the election. In the meantime, Song was elected mayor and served out his term. Hwang, the former Ulsan police chief who investigated Song's rival candidate from the People Power Party at the time, became a lawmaker. He will likely complete his legislator’s term, which is scheduled to end in May next year.

The case was one of the most high-profile scandals involving the Moon regime. Song is a long-time friend of Moon's. Moon said his wish was Song’s election as Ulsan mayor. Eight organizations of Cheong Wa Dae appear to have committed election intervention crimes.

The alleged crimes include: secretly instructing police investigations of allegations unfavorable to Song's election rival, cajoling Song’s primary competitor to exit the race, formulating Song's campaign pledges and supporting them with the announcement of related government policies.

Song's campaign office informed Moon’s secretaries of allegations about his rival candidate, Kim Gi-hyeon, the incumbent mayor at that time and currently leader of the ruling People Power Party.

They instructed the Ulsan police to investigate allegations against Kim. Police raided his office on the day he received a certificate of nomination to run for reelection. Hwang, who led the police investigations into Kim, won Democratic Party of Korea nomination to run for the National Assembly.

Prosecutors cleared Kim of the allegations, but by then, the election was over. Afterward, Kim ran successfully for the National Assembly and then became party leader.

Moon's secretaries allegedly proposed the public post of consul general in Japan to Song’s strongest nomination rival on the condition that he would give up running in the nomination race.

The prosecution called the election unprecedentedly anti-democratic. It was marked by the uppermost agency of power commanding targeted investigations to blemish a rival candidate.

The Moon regime made all-out efforts to sweep the affair under the rug. Lee Sung-yoon, an alumnus of the same university as Moon, who was appointed as chief of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, refused to approve prosecutors' indictment plan. Then-Prosecutor General Yoon Suk Yeol called a meeting of prosecutors investigating the case and senior prosecutors, and decided to put the suspects on trial.

Once the case came into the judiciary, Moon-appointed Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su assigned it to Judge Kim Mi-ri, a former member of a group of judges with similar ideological tendencies, to which he also once belonged.

Song and Hwang were prosecuted in January 2020, but the bench under Kim Mi-ri dragged its feet. All she did was hold six preparatory hearings. She did not hold a main hearing at all for a year and three months. She abruptly took a leave of absence in April 2021 and a new bench of judges held the first hearing in May 2021, a year and four months after the indictments.

Thanks to the trial delay, Song was able to finish his four-year mayoral term, and even ran for reelection last year. He was not reelected.

First-trial hearings ended after an inordinate delay. A senior prosecutor and a judge loyal to the Moon administration dawdled apparently to cover up its illegalities. The truth about indictment and trial procrastination must be uncovered.

Former President Moon's name is said to be mentioned in the indictment 35 times, but Moon has not been investigated. A probe is needed to identify the root of the case.

An election law violator must not be allowed to serve out his or her term due to investigation and trial delay. For a fair election, they must be speedy, and punishment of those found guilty must be stern. Justice delayed is justice denied.