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No privileges for Chung

Oct 04,2019
Embattled Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s wife, Chung Kyung-sim was interrogated by prosecutors on Thursday. Her interrogation had been widely anticipated and delayed by a few days. The problem is that she was summoned in a suspicious way — secretly and on a national holiday, Oct. 3. The way she came into the prosecution’s office raises serious concerns about the future direction of the law enforcement agency’s investigations into a plethora of allegations against Cho’s family.

Chung, a professor at a local university, reportedly arrived at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul around 9 a.m. Reporters had been waiting for her at several entrances of the building to ask questions. She avoided them by entering the building through its underground parking lot, which is inaccessible to ordinary people. Without cooperation from prosecutors, the press can’t go there.

Such surreptitious summoning goes against the prosecutors’ earlier position that they would summon Chung openly. The prosecution said she would enter its building through the first floor. But her stealthy summoning made it impossible for reporters to capture the moment of her standing in front of the building before going through interrogation — a routine procedure in the past. The prosecution cited her bad health condition as a reason for offering such special treatments. But that’s hard to believe. We wonder why the prosecution wants to offer unnecessary privileges to her. Is it because her husband is their boss?

Another question is whether the justice minister toughened the rules on the public release of prosecutors’ investigations in order to help his family. Opposition lawmakers denounced the prosecution for offering Chung a “privileged summons.” Opponents attributed it to mounting pressure from the government and ruling Democratic Party (DP). The DP on Wednesday even accused the prosecution of disclosing allegations about Cho’s family to the media while its investigation was underway.

Prosecutors need to correct their cruel practice of forcing suspects to pose at a designated spot to help the media take picture of them, as seen in a DP spokesperson’s hope that the prosecution’s method of summoning Chung on Thursday is a good example of respecting the human rights of suspects. But why should the first beneficiary of a changed rule be the justice minister’s wife?

The prosecution must treat all people equally, as clearly mandated by our Constitution. It must uphold that principle above all.