Under the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration, it has become de rigueur for conservatives to re-litigate the recent past. (See previous coverage, “PPP Attempts to Whitewash Coup Attempt.”) The latest such attempt is a book by former prosecutor Lee In-gyu 이인규, I was a Prosecutor of the Republic of Korea 나는 대한민국의 검사였다, released on March 24.
Lee, the former chief of the Central Investigation Bureau of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office 대검찰청 중수부장, was the lead prosecutor in the investigation of the alleged corruption of Roh Moo-hyun 노무현. The investigation ended when the former president took his own life in 2009, and the ensuing outrage formed South Korea’s liberal core that persists to this day. (See previous coverage, “Political Culture that is Roh.”)
The conventional understanding of Roh’s alleged bribery case is that Jeong Sang-mun, Blue House Secretary of General Affairs 정상문 청와대 총무비서관, amassed a slush fund by accepting money from friendly businessmen without Roh’s knowledge. But Lee recounts his version of the investigation in his book, and insists that Roh was in fact guilty of bribery. Based on his conclusion, Lee slams South Korea’s liberals and Moon Jae-in 문재인, Roh’s former chief of staff who, according to Lee, “became the president by building an altar of lies on top of Roh’s corpse.”
Lee’s telling of the investigative record is tendentious: when testimonies conflict without documentary evidence, Lee simply declares that Roh and his associates must have been lying. But perhaps more problematic is Lee’s proud description of the intimidation and pressure tactics he used in the investigation of Roh. Revealing information gathered in the course of a prosecutorial investigation is itself a criminal violation. But Lee, undeterred, details the threats he made to gain the statements he wished to create.
To a Samsung 삼성 executive, Lee threatened: “If you don’t cooperate, you will face difficulties of the kind your company has never experienced before.” When Lee found the LG Group LG그룹 uncooperative, he raided LG’s home shopping division based on an entirely unrelated charge. While ordering an arrest warrant for a corporate executive who refused to give testimony that he bribed Roh, Lee said: “I gave you the chance, but you didn’t cooperate. Now you’re going to jail instead, just like I promised.”
Even the conservative press was aghast at Lee’s braggadocio. In JoongAng Ilbo 중앙일보, columnist Lee Sang-eon 이상언 wrote that Lee’s book “reminds one of the prosecutor in the movie Nameless Gangster 범죄와의 전쟁, who said: ‘I don’t care if you’re a thug or not. If I say you’re a thug, you’re a thug.’ . . . Lee seems to think his career as a prosecutor was a point of pride. I hope the Republic of Korea never sees another prosecutor like him.”