Corruption Investigation Office Is a Shameless Government Tool

      December 30, 2021 13:26

      The Corruption Investigation Office for High-Ranking Officials, a supposedly independent agency established to root out corruption in government, has been snooping into the phone records of main opposition presidential candidate Yoon Suk-yeol and his wife among a whopping 80 of the People Power Party's 105 lawmakers. They include Kwon Seong-dong, who serves as Yoon's chief of staff, as well as Chang Je-won and Yoon Han-hong, who are also close to the former prosecutor general. Yoon's spokesman Kim Byung-min's phone records were also scrutinized, and the list of victims is expected to increase.

      The investigation office was hastily set up early this year by the government to pull the teeth of independent prosecutors as they were getting too close in their probes to President Moon Jar-in's inner circle. It had been facing mounting criticism already when it was revealed that it spied on the phone records of journalists, lawyers and academics who have been critical of the Moon administration. It is unconscionable for a state agency to commit such blatant violations of its ostensible brief just around two months before Koreans elect a new president.

      The agency claimed that it was merely checking individuals who had communicated with people it is investigating but refused to comment on exactly what they were probing. And how strange that it is the phone records of PPP lawmakers that need to be investigated but nobody in government -- no lawmaker from the ruling Minjoo Party or person loyal to Moon appears to have had his or her phone logs examined. And four out of 10 cases the agency said it investigated involve Yoon, its nemesis, so the latest snooping probably targets him as well. Meanwhile it has not even considered probing the biggest elephant in the room, the massive scandal involving the Seongnam land development project that took place when MP presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung was mayor of the town in Gyeonggi Province. Two people linked to the corruption scandal have committed suicide so far, but the agency is not interested.

      The investigation office was created by Moon who claimed that an independent agency is needed to investigate those in power because the prosecution is too often subservient to the government. But he only doubled down on the pledge when it turned out that prosecutors under Yoon were not sufficiently subservient to him. The agency pledges on its website it will "eradicate crimes by high-ranking officials." But instead it is turning a blind eye to huge scandals involving ruling party officials who actually are or were in power, while investigating opposition figures. It must provide an urgent explanation.

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