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Miles to go

Feb 22,2017
The controversy over President Park Geun-hye’s longtime friend Choi Soon-sil wielding influence in state affairs is heading toward another climax. Special prosecutors under independent counsel Park Young-soo have obtained clear evidence of Choi’s intervention in appointments for top government posts.

The evidence includes documents revealing her involvement in appointing heads of the National Police Agency (NPA), the Korea Tobacco & Ginseng Corporation and Woori Bank — the government is its largest shareholder — as well as several photos of a handwritten Post-it note she wanted to send to the Office of the Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs. Lee Chul-sung, former deputy head of the NPA, whose name appears in the documents, was promoted to the chief position last July despite controversy over drunk driving.

Moreover, a lawyer for Choi wrote personal evaluations of 19 candidates for chief justices, prosecutor general, head of National Tax Service (NTS) and police chief in 2013 for President Park’s transition team. We are dumbfounded that five of them actually landed jobs as chief justices and in other government organizations. Earlier, special prosecutors also gathered tangible evidence of Choi meddling in the appointments of Park’s first cabinet members, including the head of the National Intelligence Service.

The evidence shows that President Park’s confidante intervened in the appointments of culture minister, head of the NTS and other top positions in the government. We wonder who really was president of this country.

The independent counsel must get to the bottom of the case, starting with the controversial promotion of the deputy police chief. Special prosecutors in January learned from Choi’s niece Jang Si-ho that she had heard her aunt angrily demand Lee Chul-sung’s promotion in a telephone conversation, but they did not embark on an investigation. The prosecutors should have called in Lee for interrogation before summoning former presidential secretary for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo. But they didn’t. As a result, prosecutors could not add the accusation to the reasons for the court to issue an arrest warrant for Woo.

The independent counsel is not aggressively investigating the case. That raises suspicions that the counsel offered a plea bargain to Woo. Since the current police chief wanted special prosecutors to thoroughly probe his promotion case, they must not drag their feet. Prosecutors must dig out the whole truth.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 22, Page 30