(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on April 19)

Controversy has erupted over former Gyeonggi Deputy Gov. Lee Hwa-young's stunning allegation that he had a meeting over drinks with prosecutors and suspects involved in SBW Group's remittance of US$8 million to North Korea to help then-Gyeonggi Gov. Lee Jae-myung visit Pyongyang. The former deputy governor made the allegation in a trial on April 4 over his apparent involvement in the dubious remittance of the money. In court, Lee Hwa-young said that he had drank with SBW chair Kim Sung-tae and prosecutors at a "storage room" in front of a prosecutor's office in early July last year. He added that several SBW employees brought food, including salmon sashimi, to the room at the time. The prosecution denied his allegation, saying, "On June 30, by the data mentioned by Lee's lawyer, Lee had a meal in a detention center." The lawyer then changed "storage room" to a "statement recording room" and "June 30" to "July 3" to refute what the prosecution claimed. The lawyer even presented a map of the location, hand-d rawn by his client. On Thursday, members of the Democratic Party visited the Suwon District Prosecutors' Office and threatened to push for a special probe of the case. Lee Hwa-young made that allegation when his legal battle neared its end. On April 4, the prosecution demanded a 15-year sentence for Lee from the bench. A final ruling will be delivered on June 7. Last May and June, Lee told prosecutors that he had asked SBW to pay the money for his boss's trip to North Korea in return for favors and reported the request to his boss. (Later, Lee Hwa-young reversed his remarks in a letter from prison.) The prosecution has already obtained an internal document from the National Intelligence Service about the remittance process of the money. If such suspicions are true, Lee Jae-myung, now the DP leader, is expected to be indicted again. Legal experts linked Lee Hwa-young's shocking allegation to the need to shake the justification of his trial. Given the tainted past of the prosecution, the suspicion that prosec utors tried to cajole Lee Hwa-young to accept his accountability will not likely subside soon. The prosecution denied Lee and his lawyer's allegations based on testimonies by its own staff only. If Lee's allegation is proven true, the prosecution made a serious mistake. But if the prosecution's claim is true, Lee and the majority party must bear grave responsibility for committing injustice. Lee and his lawyers must specify the exact date of the drinking party instead of only swelling suspicions. The prosecution also must present objective evidence rather than threatening to take legal action. We hope both sides end the controversy as quickly as possible. Source: Yonhap News Agency