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The Blue House must explain

Feb 10,2020
The disclosure of the full text of the indictments of 13 officials in the Blue House and other figures on charges of illegal intervention in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018 strongly suggests the possibility of the presidential office having methodically stepped in the local election to help Song Cheol-ho, a 30-year friend of President Moon Jae-in, win the race.

According to the indictments by the prosecution, as many as seven presidential offices in the Blue House — including the Offices of the Senior Secretary for Civil Affair and Political Affairs — were mobilized to help Song win the election. The indictments also show that Song directly met with Hwang Un-ha, Ulsan police chief at the time, in September 2017 — nearly a year before the election — to ask him to investigate corruption involving aides to then-Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon. That’s not all. Han Byung-do, the senior presidential secretary for political affairs at the time, allegedly advised an internal rival of Song to give up his bid for the election in exchange for another post in the public sector.

The preface of the indictments specifically says that “a president or his aides are required to keep political neutrality more than any other civil servants.” The prosecution’s distinct mention of the president testifies to the graveness of the intervention as it hints at the possibility of President Moon having been aware of it or directly involved in the case. If proven true, it can trigger serious political or social repercussions. Opposition parties have called for thorough investigations by special prosecutors and the National Assembly.

Nevertheless, the Blue House maintains silence. After the indictments were partially made public by the Ministry of Justice, the Blue House did not react, saying the case is under investigation. But even after the full text was exposed by a newspaper, it is keeping mum. Former President Roh Moo-hyun was impeached for violating political neutrality by saying he “desires to do anything as long as it helps the ruling party get more votes in elections.”

Illegitimate interference in elections is as grave a crime as violating political neutrality. Therefore, the Blue House must explain what happened in the lead-up to Song’s election victory instead of keeping silence on the explosive allegations. Could the self-professed clean government call itself a democratic one? According to the indictments, the Director of State Affairs Planning and Monitoring at the Blue House received as many as 21 reports from the police and delivered six of them to the president.

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae must take responsibility for stirring all the controversy by deciding to not disclose what’s inside the indictments from the beginning. She is being criticized for making a wrong decision even among the ruling Democratic Party. We are disappointed at her refusal to disclose the full text of the indictments following a massive reshuffle of prosecutors digging into the suspicions.