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Investigate Police Commissioner Cho Hyun-oh Over Roh Borrowed-Name Bank Account Comment
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Police Commissioner Cho Hyun-oh

In a recent interview with the news media, National Police Agency commissioner Cho Hyun-oh, who was sued after he said during a lecture given when he was Seoul Metropolitan Police commissioner that late President Roh Moo-hyun jumped to his death after large borrowed-name bank accounts were discovered, said that it was desirable not to talk about the veracity of his comment about the false-name accounts.

Asked if this meant that he believed his comment was not a mistake or based on wrong information, he answered that it wasn't that, but rather that if he talks, it could invite massive public censure. Regarding former Roh chief of staff Moon Jae-in, who criticized Cho's comments about Roh and the bank accounts as groundless, he added that he had much to say, but wouldn't.

His attitude is one of talking as if his comment had grounds, but he would no longer talk about it to avoid controversy. About this, Democratic Party lawmaker Baek Won-woo, who was an aide to Roh, criticized that Cho was using a political stratagem in an effort to extend his term as police commissioner, and that if his comments regarding the accounts have grounds, he should put them forth.

According to Article 257 of the Criminal Procedure Code, an investigation into a complaint or accusation should be completed and a decision be made on whether to seek an indictment within three months of receiving the case. Moreover, investigations of such cases usually proceed with consideration of the material, followed by questioning of the party raising charges, then questioning of witnesses, and then questioning the accused.

Prosecutors, however, are not following normal investigation procedures, letting four months pass while saying they are considering the matter of the case against Cho in accordance with procedures. In early September, they questioned Roh's son-in-law, lawyer Kwak Sang-eon, and his former chief-of staff and legal council, Moon, who were the ones who filed a complaint against Cho.

Despite this, they have yet to make a decision even on bringing Cho in for questioning. This stands in contrast to how quickly they moved in other cases like the ones regarding reports on the danger of Mad Cow Disease in imported US beef, in which they called in the accused within 20 days of getting the complaint.

It is natural that criticism be raised that prosecutors are intentionally keeping hands-off out of consideration of the political hit the police commissioner would suffer if he were to be questioned.

Prosecutors mustn't delay an investigation into Cho any further. They must call in Cho and resolve the public suspicions caused by his comments. In September, it was reported that Lee In-kyu, former chief of the Central Investigation Department at the Supreme Public Prosecutors' Office, said that Cho's borrowed-name bank account statement wasn't incorrect or correct.

Since former president Roh's death, the records of his investigation have been sealed, but there is no reason not to break them out if they are needed to ease public suspicion.

If the parties that raised the complaint cancel their complaint, this matter can end without an investigation by prosecutors, but there seems to be no possibility of that happening. Prosecutors have no choice but to begin their investigation promptly in accordance with principle. (Ed. Dec 28, 2010)

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