The prosecution has been accelerating its investigation of the sitting power ahead of the formal launch of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO). All the cases point to the Blue House. The investigation into the alleged government meddling in the closure of Wolsong-1 reactor has picked up speed after the prosecution questioned former Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu who spearheaded the nuclear reactor phase-out policy of President Moon Jae-in.
The reactor shutdown was rushed after Moon asked when the nuclear reactor would be permanently plugged. Paik chastised government officials to hurry to the point of sneaking into the office in the middle of night to delete sensitive files before inspectors arrived. Korea Gas Corp. President Chae Hee-bong, who served as Moon’s secretary for industrial policy at the time, also faces questioning.
Song Cheol-ho, current Ulsan Mayor and 30-year-long friend of President Moon, is central to the investigation into the Blue House’s meddling in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election. Song and 12 others were indicted in January last year on suspicion that the Blue House had helped his campaign and ordered to find dirt on his rival, then-mayor Kim Ki-hyun. But the trial has stalled for more than a year. The prosecution could not even question Moon’s first Chief of Staff Im Jong-seok who was accused of backing Song’s campaign.
The investigation into the Justice Ministry’s illegal travel ban on former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui is looking into who ordered the falsification of case serial numbers to cook up documents against him. The prosecution raided the anti-corruption department office at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to find out if Lee Seong-yoon — current head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and then head of the department — was the person who made the order.
The prosecution has the duty to investigate wrongdoings of both past and sitting powers. But the government and ruling Democratic Party are strongly protesting the investigation.
New Justice Minister Park Beom-gye argued the case should be handed over to the CIO. The Anticorruption and Civil Rights Commission also said it was mulling to refer the case to the CIO. Under the CIO law, the agency can demand other law enforcement agencies to hand over the case when necessary. But referring the case to an organization that is yet to be fully manned can only be seen as a strategy to buy time. The prosecution must not waver and get to the bottom of the cases before the CIO becomes fully operational.