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Smoking Gun, But No Prosecution

Posted February. 04, 2003 22:45,   


The Office of Attorney General has decided not to launch a probe into the secret-aid scandal, which has it that Hyundai Marine Merchant secretly wired 223.5 billion won (or approximately $200 million) to North Korea. Upon hearing this decision, quite a number of prosecutors are criticizing it themselves. In the meanwhile, civil rights groups and the Bar Association issued statements yesterday, demanding the office to withdraw its decision and start investigation.

▽ Demand of the investigation team ignored = The Criminal Division 9 of the Seoul District Public Prosecutors` Office had made preliminary preparations to launch a probe into the case. The division had constantly demanded that Attorney General should allow it to launch an investigation in earnest, up to the very moment Attorney General decided to abort the case.

The division has demonstrated its strong will to prosecute. For example, on Jan. 23rd and 24th, the division prohibited 12 key individuals involved in this case including Hyundai Asan`s chairman Chung Mong-hun from traveling abroad.

When briefing Seoul District Office`s head Yoo Chong-jong and Attorney General Kim Jok-young on the case on Monday, the division also expressed its will to launch an investigation into the scandal.

A veteran prosecutor with the Seoul District Office said, "We have made it clear to our superiors that an investigation should be commenced. We are prosecutors. We don`t have to think about what politicians may think of our action. We told our heads, if there is a lead, we just have to look into it. But, our demand seems to be ignored."

▽ Reaction of prosecutors to the decision = A majority of prosecutors lashed out and said, "We prosecutors deserted our duty yet again. We just caved in to the political pressure."

A district attorney worried, "What we have collected and what has transpired are enough to legitimize initiation of a prosecution. Several reasons have been conjured up to justify the decision not to launch an investigation. But, I`m afraid, few citizens would buy them."

A Justice Ministry`s prosecutor, citing an old Chinese historic case, posted a message on the internal electronic bulletin board of the ministry, which expressed how sorry he felt about the decision.

On the other hand, a handful of prosecutors approved of the decision and said, "We cannot ignore the reality. We understand how hard it was to make such decision."

▽ Criticism from Millennium Democratic Party and Presidential Transition Committee = Rep. Hohm Seung-hee of Millennium Democratic Party pointed out, "The prosecution is knowingly neglecting its duties, and just catering to politicians. If a DA`s office looks into it, all the things that will come up are limited to those that are considered in violation of the law. But, once a special counsel is appointed and launches an investigation of his or her own, everything will be dug out, including how the decision was made and what political considerations were given. It may hurt, or at least strain the North-US as well as North-South relations."

The majority members on the Presidential Transition Committee are trying not to make any comment on the issue by brushing it off as "lying outside the committee`s jurisdiction." Still, some of the members criticized, "The prosecutors are giving too much political consideration in understanding this issue. But, it is still not understandable why some politicians are just trying to resolve this matter through appointment of a special counsel."

▽ Criticism from civil rights groups and scholars = In a statement issued yesterday, the Korean Bar Association demanded, "There are ample leads indicating the checkbook diplomacy runs counter to the law. In addition, every citizen wants to know the truth. Nonetheless, the Attorney General`s Office decided not to launch any investigation. The prosecution is simply neglecting its duties. We urge the prosecution to regain its independence through a thorough investigation of this case."

Attorney Park Won-soon, who also serves as a commissioner at the People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, commented, "The decision is not supported by any existing provision in the law. Under any circumstances, the truth should be uncovered. All they have to do is to punish those involved based on the discovered facts and the law."

Goh Gye-hyun, a senior staff member of Citizens` Coalition for Economic Justice, snapped and said, "The prosecution has lost the respect of citizens by catering to politicians. Yet again, they disappointed us. They just caved in to the political pressure. How shameful they are!"

Seoul National University law professor Ahn Gyung-hwon said, "The prosecution is not free from the political pressure. It is not an independent organization. I guess, that is why the decision is made. But, the truth has to be brought to light by all means. We have to approach this matter from the viewpoint of the ordinary citizens."