+ A

Thorough investigation is needed (KOR)

June 22,2019
Rep. Sohn Hye-won, now an independent after leaving the ruling Democratic Party (DP), was indicted by the prosecution on charges of violating the Public Employees Corruption Prevention Act and the law requiring real estate transactions to be made using one’s actual name. She was accused of having used inside information to speculate on real estate investments in locations set for urban development, making some purchases under borrowed names. Prosecutors found some truth in the media reports from January that she had vehemently denied.

According to the prosecution’s findings, Sohn acquired a document on urban development plans from a Mokpo, South Jeolla city administration official and used a fund run by her husband and others to purchase real estate in the southern coastal city worth 1.4 billion won ($1.18 million). An old inn that was recognized as a local heritage spot was purchased under her niece’s name. Her aide also bought land and buildings under borrowed names and shared the development outline with his acquaintances.

Sohn denied any wrongdoing and promised to donate all her assets if she was found guilty for illicit real estate trading. The truth must be judged by the court. If the prosecution is right, Sohn and her aide have committed a serious crime. The nation would be totally corrupt if senior government officials abuse inside information for personal gain. The Anti-Corruption Act punishes violators with a maximum of seven years in prison or a fine of 70 million won. At the time Sohn made the purchases, the government’s clampdown on real estate speculation was at its peak. Sohn was then a heavyweight politician in the ruling party. She may have her excuses, but she inevitably aggravated public skepticism in public policies and elites.

The judiciary world believes there would be more to the charges behind Sohn. It took five months for the prosecution probe to come to a conclusion. The prosecution questioned Sohn just once and kept summoning her secretly to spare her humiliation to the press. The prosecution went light on Sohn by allowing her to prepare for trials without physical detention when it had always sought an arrest warrant for people related to investigations related to past government on lighter charges. The prosecution said it will also look into the suspicion that Sohn had pressured the Ministry of Patriots and Veterans Affairs to bestow her father with an honor of merit. The prosecution must dig further and thoroughly into the case.

JoongAng Ilbo, June19, Page 30