From the rule of law to the rule of law

Former deputy justice minister Kim Hak-eui was cleared of all charges, including the count of receiving sexual favors from a businessman, in the Supreme Court last week. The higher court found the witnesses’ testimonies dubious and some of the counts passed the statute of limitations.

Although Kim has been freed from legal action since being investigated in court in March 2013, he is not fully pardoned for moral liability. The evidence presented at the trials revealed his wrongdoings. Although the statute of limitations for receiving sex bribery charges had expired, the first court found that the person in the video evidence was Kim. An audio pathologist also confirmed a 95% match to his voice in the video.

The case highlighted Korea’s judicial limits on prosecuting a senior official. The preliminary investigation had been poor. The prosecution denied a police arrest warrant request for Kim in 2013. He did not search his home or seize his mobile phone. Kim was acquitted without any indictment after a four-month investigation.

The second investigation was prompted by the female victim of a sex crime the following year, but it too ended without charge. Kim was not even called in for questioning by prosecutors. Evidence failed to accumulate due to the prosecution’s lack of investigations, and some of the claims against him passed the statute of limitations during the trials.

The Moon Jae-in administration has revived the investigation as part of the relentless campaign to punish figures of wrongdoing committed under previous conservative governments. At that time, President Moon directly ordered the prosecution and police to investigate Kim’s case with their names on the line.

The prosecution this time had to resort to illegal means to persecute the former deputy justice minister of the conservative administration. He banned Kim from leaving the country after handling related documents. That’s not all. The Justice Department and Supreme Prosecutors Office illegally compiled private information about Kim.

The prosecution acted in the opposite direction because the law enforcement authority was influenced by the power in place. It was governed by the rule of law, not by the rule of law. The prosecution did not follow the rules of the Constitution and the law, but bent them to fulfill the orders of the powers that be.

Judicial principles state that the power of the state authorized by the people must be executed according to the laws. These principles are demoralized if criminal cases and investigations are under the influence of the power in place. Dropping a criminal case or over-investigating without discretion will undermine the very foundations of our democracy.

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