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The mighty fall

Jan 31,2020
President Moon Jae-in’s former chief of staff, Im Jong-seok, was brought to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office Thursday and questioned about his alleged involvement in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018. On Wednesday, the prosecution indicted 13 Blue House officials on charges of having violated the Public Servants Election Act, but Im was excluded from the indictments. The prosecution says it is not granting immunity to him. Instead, prosecutors suspect that he methodically helped Moon’s 30-year friend, Song Cheol-ho, win the mayoral race after exposing some dirt on then-mayor Kim Gi-hyeon through the Ulsan metropolitan police.

The truth behind their unauthorized intervention in the election will be revealed through investigations and trials. However, given that Im, Moon’s first chief of staff, was allegedly involved in trying to sway the results of that election — and that he appeared before cameras in front of the prosecution office — he should have deeply reflected on the plethora of allegations against him and immediately apologized to the public.

Instead of expressing regrets, however, Im chose to denounce the top law enforcement agency for “framing him with clear motives” under the leadership of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl “after the prosecution did not pay any attention to the suspicion over the last 20 months.”

It all started with a police report suggesting the launch of an investigation of Ulsan mayor Kim after receiving an order from the Blue House. And yet, Im is bent on stigmatizing the prosecution. That is sheer sophistry. Even Prof. Jin Jung-kwon, an icon of progressivism in Korea, warned against “manipulating public opinion.”

In the early stage of the liberal administration, Im triumphantly waved a Blue House report — which was discovered in a cabinet inside an office — before cameras, saying it manifested a manipulation of a report on the timing of the Sewol ferry sinking in 2014 when Park Geun-hye was president. At the time, Yoon Seok-youl was head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, which faithfully dug into the suspicions. What difference is there between Yoon at the time and Yoon now?

Insiders of the law enforcement agency expect that the prosecution’s additional investigation of the former chief of staff will be difficult after a massive reshuffle of prosecutors in February and December. An act of pressuring the prosecution is an insult to the integrity of the top law enforcement agency. Im must stop threatening the prosecution.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 31, Page 30