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A huge task for prosecutor-general nominee

Posted November. 14, 2013 06:40,   


Parliamentary confirmation hearings on prosecutor-general nominee Kim Jin-tae ended on Wednesday. Since the main opposition Democratic Party is not too strongly opposed to his nomination, Kim will likely be approved seamlessly. One and a half months have passed since former Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook stepped down due to his alleged fathering of a child through extramarital affairs. The prosecutor-general post had remained vacant for about four months because Chae’s predecessor Han Sang-dae also quit the position due to collective disobedience by prosecutors. The incoming prosecutor-general is facing the heavy burden of responsibility to recover the stature of prosecution that had a free fall due to the successive ungraceful exit of two top prosecutors.

There was also collapse of the command chain in the prosecution due to distrust between its leadership and the investigation team in the course of investigating online posts allegedly uploaded by National Intelligence Service agents. As a result, the credibility of the entire prosecutorial investigation into the case has been placed in question, and the opposition parties are now demanding an independent council probe. The new prosecutor-general should keep in mind that thorough investigation into and retaining of incitement over the case involving the spy agency is the only way to overcome distrust within and surrounding the prosecution. In his confirmation hearing, Kim singled out stabilization of the prosecutorial organization as his top priority, saying, “I will ensure that the results of a prosecutorial probe would never burden the public.”

As he noted, prosecutors must change recognition of their position as civil servants. Suspicions over Chae’s fathering a child through extramarital affairs started with his improper relationship with a woman he met while working at a provincial prosecutors’ office. Though former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-ui was cleared of special rape charge after eight-month investigation, he still faces suspicion that he received sexual service as bribe from a construction company CEO. The disgraceful disqualification of two men, who were the most senior officials in the prosecution along with Kim up until early this year, is testament that prosecutors’ recognition of their positions are corrupt including among those in the top echelon.

More than anything, the prosecutor-general should be a strong bulwark that guards prosecutors from external pressure from those in power. To do this, the top prosecutor himself should be morally clean. A flurry of suspicions was raised against prosecutor-general nominee Kim, including alleged taking of bribes from Samsung and real estate speculation in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province. Kim denied all the allegations. The Chae fiasco demonstrated that clearing the parliamentary confirmation hearing process is not the end in itself. If Kim has any suspicion that could prove to be a factor of his illegibility, he had better give up his nomination now to ensure prosecutors’ interest.

Kim expressed a negative view on the permanent special prosecutor system and the special ombudsman system, among President Park Geun-hye’s election pledges to reform the prosecution. Only the dismantlement of the central investigation department at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office has been completed among her election pledges. The bid to reduce the number of vice minister-level posts within the prosecution is progressing at a snail’s pace, while no clear direction has been set over the proposed permanent special prosecutor system and the special ombudsman system. A fallacy that the top prosecutor is most vulnerable to is desire to organizational interest of the prosecution. If the new prosecutor-general denies reform due to his obsession with organizational interest, the public will act before the president to force him out.