Posted July. 17, 2017 07:19,
Updated July. 17, 2017 07:22
The presidential office made public a number of documents including a memo entitled "Consideration of ways to support inheritance of Samsung Group’s managerial control" in a surprise move on Friday, saying the documents were believed to have been drafted by the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs under the Park Geun-hye administration. The office said it transferred a total of over 300 documents in total to the Presidential Archives, and handed over copies to independent counsel Park Young-soo’s team. “We found the documents in a cabinet while changing the office layout of the senior presidential office for civil affairs on July 3,” presidential press secretary Park Soo-hyeon said.
The memo that the presidential office disclosed includes writings reading “Samsung’s managerial control in the phase of inheritance to use as an opportunity; check what Samsung needs in the course of managerial control inheritance; seek to find ways to help Samsung what the government can and guide Samsung to increase contributions to the national economy; the government can wield significant influence in resolving Samsung’s pending issues.” Superficially, the memo gives the impression that it is important physical evidence that former President Park Geun-hye helped Samsung’s inheritance of managerial control through senior presidential secretary for civil affairs Woo Byung-woo.
However, the memo is flawed in many aspects as purported evidence for a criminal case. It is difficult to tell how the memo was written and in what context and for what reason it was written. Even if someone in the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs wrote just as the current presidential office has claimed, it is unclear whether he wrote at the former president’s instruction or whether the writer put together what he had in mind before reporting to the president. Even if it is a memo on his thought and ideas it is still unknown whether it was actually debriefed to the president and even if it was, whether the president instructed the office to implement as suggested. Many in the judicial community believe that the memo cannot constitute evidence of bribery per se.
The criminal court 27 at the Seoul Central District Court previously announced, “We are planning to hold the final hearing on Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong on August 2.” If the hearing takes place as scheduled, there are only 15 days to go. The expiry of Vice Chairman Lee’s arrest for the lower court’s trial is August 27. Considering that it generally takes one to two weeks from the final hearing to verdict, even if the final hearing is delayed, it will be only delayed about a week. It is difficult to investigate and figure out who wrote the memo and how during the remaining period of less than one month. The presidential office also may as well be aware of this. Even so, the fact the presidential office asked broadcasters to cover live when publicizing the documents can only be construed as its attempt to generate more negative public opinions and influence the trials over bribery charges against former President Park and Samsung Group Vice Chairman Lee Jae-yong.
The judge who dismissed the first application for Lee’s arrest warrant suffered from ruthless slandering, revelation of his personal profile and immense criticism by some netizens. The pressure that the lower court in charge of Lee’s bribery case would be far stronger than that. However, this trial is also a historical trial that will be remembered for many years to come. The court should issue verdict only based on evidence in accordance with laws and conscience to ensure that the verdict will not be labeled as a ruling issued by reflecting public opinions. As the supreme organization in the government, the incumbent presidential office should refrain from staging a campaign meant to influence public opinions, which can spark controversy over separation of the three powers.