Moon voices ire over Yoon’s corruption probe remarks, demands apology

Posted on : 2022-02-11 16:38 KST Modified on : 2022-02-11 16:38 KST
Figures in the People Power Party have called Moon’s reaction a form of “election meddling”
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sits for a photo at the Blue House on Thursday following a written interview with seven global news agencies belonging to the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies. (OANA pool photo)
South Korean President Moon Jae-in sits for a photo at the Blue House on Thursday following a written interview with seven global news agencies belonging to the Organization of Asia-Pacific News Agencies. (OANA pool photo)

President Moon Jae-in on Thursday criticized People Power Party presidential nominee Yoon Suk-yeol for saying he’ll launch an investigation into alleged corruption by the current administration if elected president.

Moon expressed “strong resentment” at Yoon’s remarks, saying his administration was being “groundlessly accused of criminality," and demanded that Yoon apologize.

In response to the president’s comments, Yoon said he has no interest in "political retaliation.”

“President Moon has always emphasized [the need for investigations] according to the law and principles without any special exemptions,” Yoon added.

During a meeting with aides earlier that day, Moon also reportedly questioned if Yoon had "turned a blind eye" to such alleged corruption when he served as prosecutor general or the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, according to Park Soo-hyun, senior secretary for public communications.

Yoon’s remarks came during an interview with the Korean daily Joongang Ilbo, earlier this week. When asked if he intended to conduct a probe into possible corruption by the Moon administration if elected, Yoon answered “Yes, we must. It should be investigated.”

“How many crimes did the Democratic Party use the prosecution service to commit?” Yoon asked.

President Moon is said to have felt offended by Yoon's remarks, which flew in the face of prosecution reform pushed for by his administration.

Even though Yoon maintains that "political revenge isn't in [his] vocabulary," he has yet to respond to Moon’s demand for an apology.

Yoon told reporters that he felt he and Moon shared a belief in the adherence to legal principles.

“I, too, have been saying that grand corruption and conventional corruption should always be dealt with by the law, principles, and without any exemptions to anyone,” Yoon said. “It can be said that President Moon and I share the same way of thinking.”

To this, a Blue House official responded that “this situation would be neatly dealt with if Yoon simply responds to the president’s question and apologizes.”

“It is very regrettable that President Moon was dragged into the election in this way. This is noxious politics and anachronistic,” the official said.

“If this is an election strategy, then it’s low and if this is really what Yoon believes, then it’s dangerous,” the official noted.

The ruling Democratic Party also criticized Yoon's remarks. Lee Jae-myung, the party’s nominee for the Blue House, said, “I've seen many presidential campaigns, but I've never seen a candidate actually vow to carry out political reprisals.”

“I sincerely suggest that we go down the path of unity rather than retaliation,” Lee added.

Moreover, a group of 20 Democratic Party lawmakers who had worked in the Moon Jae-in administration held a press conference at the National Assembly condemning the remarks, criticizing Yoon, a person they said is “merely a candidate” for "instructing authorities to conduct an investigation as if he were already president.” They referred to Yoon’s comments as “inciting a coup d’etat” by the prosecution service.

On the other hand, the People Power Party accused Moon of unfairly meddling in the election.

Lee Yang-soo, a senior spokesperson for the opposition party’s election headquarters, expressed “regret” over Moon demanding an apology from Yoon regarding comments about an investigation into corruption, calling it “unfair election meddling.”

Lee Jun-seok, the leader of the People Power Party, also reacted to the situation by posting on Facebook.

“The act of trying to take down the opposition party candidate while flying off the handle [over Yoon bringing up the principle of an investigation] is clearly a form of election interference,” Lee wrote.

By Seo Young-ji and Lee Wan, staff reporters

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