Yoon marshals audit agencies for no-stone-unturned probes into Moon administration

Posted on : 2022-07-08 17:51 KST Modified on : 2022-07-08 17:51 KST
Various agencies with powers to conduct audits, investigations and inspections have been turning their attention toward several cases related to the administration of Moon Jae-in
President Yoon Suk-yeol heads to the podium at the Munhwa Future Report 2022, held in downtown Seoul on July 7. (Yonhap News)
President Yoon Suk-yeol heads to the podium at the Munhwa Future Report 2022, held in downtown Seoul on July 7. (Yonhap News)

The National Intelligence Service (NIS), the Board of Audit and Inspection, prosecutors and police are simultaneously conducting internal inspections, audits and investigations on cases related to the former Moon Jae-in administration. These recent developments show how significant headway is already being made on President Yoon Suk-yeol’s pledge to pass judgment on the previous government — something he had promised since the early days of his candidacy.

On Thursday, it was confirmed that the NIS established its own independent task force after Yoon took office and is now conducting intensive internal inspections by appointing Choi Hyeok, deputy head of the Daegu Seobu Branch Office, to the team.

Choi is in charge of inspection while the probes into Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon, both former heads of the NIS, are also reportedly being led by the same task force.

In addition, the task force is also reportedly investigating whether there was any money exchanged or inappropriate contact with North Korea during the several inter-Korean summits that took place while Moon was in office.

Lee Seok-beom, who formerly served as vice chairman of MINBYUN-Lawyers for a Democratic Society, was appointed as the head of the NIS inspection office during the Moon administration and still has a term left, but Lee has been excluded from his work after the launch of the new administration.

The Board of Audit and Inspection is also conducting an all-around audit of the allegations against the former government.

On June 17, shortly after the Coast Guard and the Ministry of National Defense reversed their position about the 2020 death of a public official, stating that they “did not find evidence to demonstrate a motivation for defection,” the Board of Audit and Inspection said it would launch a probe into the case, in line with the ruling party’s fact-finding campaign.

Amid the People Power Party pressuring Han Sang-hyuk, chairman of the Korea Communications Commission, to resign, a regular institutional audit of the KCC was launched on June 22.

Even when the former president of the Korea Development Institute, Hong Jang-pyo, resigned voluntarily, the Board of Audit and Inspection requested the submission of data on the overall operation of the institution for on-site audits, which served as a decisive blow.

Saying that probes had no political tinge to them, an official from the Board of Audit and Inspection commented that “most of the controversial issues are based on the annual audit plan.”

The prosecution service is also investigating a case in which the head of the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy during the Moon administration allegedly forced the top officials at multiple state firms to resign. It is also the responsibility of prosecutors to make criminal punishment possible for cases handed over by the NIS and the Board of Audit and Inspection.

On the same day, prosecutors prepared a full-scale investigation by assigning the cases against former NIS chiefs Park Jie-won and Suh Hoon to two different national security divisions within the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

“If the state tried to frame the case of the murdered public official as trying to defect to the North, if the fishers who defected were not treated as South Korean citizens as per the Constitution but instead North Korea’s opinion was put first, then we would be violating the human rights of these fishers and it would be a serious state crime,” an official at the presidential office said, adding that the president is “closely monitoring the prosecutors’ investigations.” This has provided a shot in the arm to the intense investigations.

The police are also investigating allegations against former Democratic Party presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung through extensive search and seizure operations. Among the investigations are those into a case concerning a development project in the Baekhyeon neighborhood of Seongnam, where Lee Jae-myung once served as mayor, and the alleged misappropriation of a corporate card by Lee’s wife, Kim Hye-gyeong.

When asked about the investigations, Yoon retorted that Democrats did the same thing — investigating the previous administration — when they were in power. The ruling camp emphasized the legitimacy of the investigations, arguing that faults of the previous administration that come to light mustn’t be swept under the rug.

However, there are concerns that this coordinated offensive involving the total mobilization of all power and administrative institutions could go the route of calculated scheming and political retaliation.

Eom Gyeong-yeong, director of the Zeitgeist Institute, commented, “It seems that the NIS has publicly accused its own former directors, so there is a possibility of [this] being misconstrued as a premeditated audit.”

Kim Yun-cheol, a professor at Kyunghee University Humanitas College, said, “Amid the escalating crisis of people’s livelihood, there are suspicions whether President Yoon Suk-yeol, who was a former prosecutor general, is trying to brandish inspection agencies in order to recover his currently abysmal approval ratings.”

By Seo Young-ji, staff reporter; Jung In-hwan, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter; Bae Ji-hyun, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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