[Editorial] Yoon, PPP need to offer full cooperation for probe into incitement allegations

Posted on : 2021-09-07 17:12 KST Modified on : 2021-09-07 17:12 KST
Following allegations that the former prosecutor general incited indictments against ruling party figures, opposition leadership has maintained that this is a negative campaign
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok and former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl answer questions from the press after a private meeting at the National Assembly building. (pool photo)
People Power Party leader Lee Jun-seok and former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl answer questions from the press after a private meeting at the National Assembly building. (pool photo)

Presidential contender Yoon Seok-youl and People Power Party (PPP) leadership are fighting allegations that the former prosecutor general incited the political opposition to file criminal complaints — an issue that they are now framing as “political maneuvering.”

Their aim appears to be to block the allegations from escalating, with the Hankyoreh and other news outlets reporting on the content of a bill of indictment reportedly delivered to PPP lawmaker Kim Woong by one of Yoon’s associates, Son Jun-seong, a former investigation intelligence policy officer at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) and current Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office human rights protection officer.

But rather than launching a counterattack, what Yoon and the PPP ought to be doing now is providing a reasonable explanation for what has been alleged. Doing otherwise will only exacerbate the public’s doubts.

Remarking on the incitement allegations shortly after a meeting Monday with PPP leader Lee Jun-seok, Yoon described them as a “frame that [the ruling Democratic Party] has manufactured,” calling ruling party members “people who have routinely engaged in political maneuvering.”

His remarks reiterated accusations of maneuvering without explicitly refuting the allegations mentioned in the bill of indictment and elsewhere.

After the allegations were first raised on Friday, Yoon asked, “If I had incited an indictment, why did that indictment not happen?” But that hardly explains things, since the core of the allegations has to do with incitement, not the indictment itself.

PPP leadership joined in on the “political maneuvering” accusations the same day. At a meeting of the party’s supreme council, lawmaker Cho Su-jin remarked, “The ruling party is following up the ‘Yoon Seok-youl X-file’ with ‘Season 2’ of ‘Nailing Yoon Seok-youl.’”

“They’re trying to sabotage him with a mystery document that doesn’t add up at all,” she said.

Fellow Supreme Council member Jung Mi-kyung echoed her remarks, saying the ruling party had “tried to create a plausible ‘incident,’ but got the facts wrong.”

“They call that ‘political maneuvering,’” she added.

During the Supreme Council meeting, party leader Lee Jun-seok said that “negative attacks on our candidates and party have been intensifying as the election draws nearer.”

He also said his party will “once again explore putting an organization in place to actively protect and vet our candidates.”

It was quite a turnaround from his remarks about the allegations during a Kwanhun Club roundtable on Friday, where he agreed that it was a “very serious issue” for which there “could be a party affairs inspection” if there had been “involvement by a [presidential primary] candidate from our party.”

It’s enough to suggest his aim is to deflect attention away from the substance of the incitement allegations by labeling them as a “negative attack” by the Democratic Party.

The allegations come down to the question of whether prosecutors — figures for whom political neutrality is absolutely essential — conspired with a particular party to encourage an indictment in order to influence a general election.

With the matter now the subject of an SPO inspection and a civic group complaint with the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, Yoon and the PPP now need to offer their full cooperation so that the truth can be clearly established.

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

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