Bat­tle over Cho Kuk

Par­ties should be­gin talks on pros­e­cu­tion re­form

The Korea Times - - OPINION -

Con­ser­va­tives and lib­er­als are of­fer­ing con­trast­ing as­sess­ments about a mas­sive rally held Satur­day in south­ern Seoul to sup­port the em­bat­tled Jus­tice Min­is­ter Cho Kuk and his pros­e­cu­tion re­form drive.

One stick­ing point be­ing de­bated in the po­lit­i­cal scene is how many peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the rally, which took place on the streets near the Supreme Pros­e­cu­tors’ Of­fice.

Or­ga­niz­ers said some 1.5 mil­lion to 2 mil­lion peo­ple gath­ered there. How­ever, us­ing its own “sci­en­tific” meth­ods of cal­cu­lat­ing the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants in a de­mon­stra­tion, the largest con­ser­va­tive Lib­erty Korea Party claimed only 50,000 were there at most, and that or­ga­niz­ers in­flated the num­ber for their own po­lit­i­cal pur­poses. The po­lice didn’t pro­vide their own es­ti­mate.

How many par­tic­i­pated in a rally has been used as a barom­e­ter of how pow­er­ful it was. Sup­port­ers of a rally tend to ex­ag­ger­ate the num­ber of par­tic­i­pants, while op­po­nents cut it down. When it comes to a po­lit­i­cal rally, this ten­dency be­comes more ev­i­dent.

But the point is not that here. It is only frus­trat­ing to see the fuss about the es­ti­mates.

The fact is that an un­usu­ally large num­ber of peo­ple gath­ered at the same place at the same time to de­mand re­form, and no rally had taken place on such a large scale since the mas­sive anti-gov­ern­ment protests in 2016 and 2017 that led to the im­peach­ment of Pres­i­dent Park Geun-hye. This is re­ally an un­usual case, and there should be a se­ri­ous study on what made them take to the streets first.

Un­for­tu­nately, the con­tro­versy over the rally re­flects how ide­o­log­i­cally po­lar­ized this so­ci­ety is. Con­ser­va­tives ar­gue the lib­eral Moon Jae-in ad­min­is­tra­tion, us­ing a “fab­ri­cated” num­ber of sup­port­ers in the name of peo­ple power, is at­tempt­ing to in­flu­ence an on­go­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into cor­rup­tion al­le­ga­tions sur­round­ing Cho Kuk and his fam­ily. LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn, Mon­day, la­beled Satur­day’s rally as a “po­lit­i­cal event or­ga­nized by pro-Moon forces in or­der to pres­sure pros­e­cu­tors who are do­ing their job to prove the sus­pi­cions, and in de­fi­ance of the rule of law.”

He made it clear that his party will op­pose the pros­e­cu­to­rial re­form, say­ing the first thing to do is to have the pros­e­cu­tion in­ves­ti­gate the sus­pi­cions in­volv­ing Cho and his fam­ily thor­oughly. If the out­come of the pros­e­cu­tion’s in­ves­ti­ga­tion is not sat­is­fac­tory, the party plans to push for a sep­a­rate in­ves­ti­ga­tion by an in­de­pen­dent coun­sel.

These views seem quite out of touch with re­al­ity, con­sid­er­ing the pros­e­cu­tion’s con­tro­ver­sial han­dling of Cho’s case. Hwang needs to know that peo­ple par­tic­i­pated in the rally be­cause they be­lieved the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was ex­ces­sive and un­fair. It also looks funny for the LKP to talk about the rule of law while scores of its lawmakers — who are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for us­ing vi­o­lence to block fast-track­ing of re­form bills early this year — have spurned re­quests from the pros­e­cu­tion to ap­pear for ques­tion­ing.

Given the ju­di­cial re­form is a po­lit­i­cal zeit­geist of this coun­try at this time, there should be se­ri­ous dis­cus­sions on how the pros­e­cu­tion should be re­formed, and the LKP should not make a mis­take by alien­at­ing it­self from the process.

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