Since a newspaper revealed the indictment of 13 figures involved in Cheong Wa Dae’s suspected meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election, calls for a direct explanation from President Moon Jae-in are mounting.
The Professors’ Solidarity for Freedom and Justice, which has about 6,000 members from 377 colleges and universities across the country, urged Moon on Tuesday to clarify his position on the election intervention suspicions.
“The president must enunciate his position regarding this grave issue unless he is either pursuing convenient justice or trying to keep selected promises,” they said in a statement.
“If he does not, we cannot but think that the president is exercising his right to refuse to testify against himself,” they said. “But the right to silence as a suspect must be exercised after he steps down from the presidential post.”
A day earlier, Lawyers for Human Rights and Unification of Korea, a group of 475 conservative lawyers, argued in a statement, “If President Moon is found to have interfered in the Ulsan mayoral election, it is an impeachable offense.” It condemned the current regime for trying to annihilate the rule of law.
A lawyer who belongs to Lawyers for Democratic Society, a group of progressive lawyers supportive of Moon, criticized him over the election meddling allegations.
“It is ‘strange and wicked’ that pro-democracy protesters of the past (who have taken power) are dreaming of dictatorship while prosecutors appear to fight back an anti-democracy force,” she posted on a social networking service. “The person who must make a responsible remark about this surreal reality holds his lips tight, waiting for the public criticism to subside.”
She added that the indictment was “obvious grounds for the impeachment and criminal punishment of the president.”
Criticisms of the Moon administration are coming from other parts of his support base, too.
People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, a progressive civic group, criticized the Justice Ministry’s decision not to disclose the indictment, calling it “unconvincing.” They said that “whether to disclose it or not is not a matter to be judged by a mere minister.”
Dozens of anonymous judges reportedly criticized Cheong Wa Dae’s rebuff of a search warrant in connection with the election-meddling investigations on an internal online bulletin board set up by a member of a group of pro-Moon judges.
The indictment says that presidential secretaries were mobilized to help Song Cheol-ho, Moon’s 30-year associate, get elected as Ulsan mayor in June 2018. The word “president” was mentioned 35 times in the indictment.
It says that, upon an order from Cheong Wa Dae, police investigated allegations surrounding Song’s election rival, then Ulsan Mayor Kim Gi-hyeon of the opposition party, to pour cold water on Kim’s approval rating as the front-runner.
Police updated Cheong Wa Dae on the investigations on 21 occasions, including six times to the state affairs planning and monitoring office, which reports directly to the president. The president could hardly be unaware of the situation.
Presidential secretaries did Song a favor by working out policies that hampered Kim’s election pledges while effectively backing up his campaign promises. Cheong Wa Dae even attempted to discourage one of Song’s intraparty competitors from running in the party primary by offering a position in public office in return for giving up in the nomination race.
With news media reporting on this, the president broke up the investigation teams through a newly appointed justice minister, who then refused to disclose the indictment. Nevertheless, criticism has not subsided.
But Moon says nothing about this situation, even after the full text of the indictment was revealed. He seems determined to pretend to be indifferent. Probably he thinks that as long as the ruling party wins the general election, he will be able to brush all of the suspicions under the carpet, whatever critics say. The comment that he is exercising his right to silence does not sound like an exaggeration.
For more than a month, Cheong Wa Dae has refused to hand over the documents to the prosecution, which requested them according to a search warrant. The presidential secretary in charge of discipline in public offices has not resigned yet, even after being indicted for faking an internship certificate for the son of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk.
The lawyer of Lawyers for Democratic Society, who lamented the surreal situation, posted: “The person (Moon) makes no response whatsoever. Is this country a monarchy or a constitutional monarchy?”
Moon must clarify his position directly.