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Time for Leadership to Act

Posted March. 07, 2003 22:29,   


The headquarters of the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Seoul District Public Prosecutor’s Office which have been in the whirlwind of a row over a radical reshuffle seemed to be swept by a storm in the morning of March 7th.

Although prosecutors pinned their hopes on the meeting between prosecutor general Kim Kak-young and Justice Minister Kang Kum-sil, they felt a sense of frustration and shame after they heard of the news that the meeting was broken down because the two failed to narrow their differences on the reshuffle plan.

A junior prosecutor at the Seoul district office said, “It is time for the leadership to make a decision.” Another prosecutor criticized the government by saying; “Carrying out a personnel reshuffle that ignores prosecutors’ opinions is like putting political shackles on the prosecution.”

Prosecutor general strongly called on the Justice Minister for reconsidering her radical reshuffle proposal. It has been reported that the proposal that the prosecutor general sent the Justice Minister on Mar. 6 contained that the proposed reshuffle plan requires reconsideration given the fact that the prosecution’s independence from the government can be secured through a fair personnel management and guarantee for retirement ages.

However, Justice Minister Kang thought differently. The Justice Minister made it clear through her press secretary Lee Chun-sung that although the prosecutor general expressed his opposition to the reshuffle plan that ignores a rigid hierarchal system and seniority within the prosecution, she would carry out a reshuffle in accordance with principles. In the afternoon of the same day, although she said that she would meet the prosecutor general Mar.8 to re-negotiate her plan, she is taking a firm position on carrying out a reshuffle according to the principle.

The prosecution held meetings throughout the day. In the Morning of Mar.7 prosecutor general Kim discussed the prosecution’s official position with senior supreme prosecution officials including chief director of the supreme prosecution office Kim Hak-jae at his office for 40 minutes.

There is no exception to prosecutors in the Seoul District Public Prosecutor’s Office. They also spent all day holding back-to-back meetings. Senior prosecutors of 27 prosecution offices held a luncheon meeting and convened a meeting of all prosecutors in the building of the Seoul district prosecutor’s office at 2 p.m. Prosecutors who work in other areas called their colleagues in the Seoul office to express their opinions on the reshuffle, sources said. The topic that dominated all the meetings held at the prosecution was the prosecution’s political independence. However, remarks from Cheong Wa Dae stoked the prosecution’s ire because the president said that he would punish those who rebel against the reshuffle.

A senior prosecutor in the Seoul District Public Prosecutor’s Office said, “It is unavoidable to express our opinions on the radical reshuffle, but we have not decided yet on the way of expressing the opinion. It has been known that there are strong opponents of the radical reshuffle, insisting that the government is trying to control the organization in the name of reform. However, some prosecutors voiced their reflection by saying the current situation is invited by the prosecution itself. The Korean legal circle and civic groups said that the prosecution should assume the responsibility for having failed to maintain its political independence and endure a difficult transitional period until a fair personnel management system takes root as a practice.

Meanwhile, Lee Jong-chan, chief prosecutor at the Seoul high public prosecutor’s office, Kim Seung-kyu, chief prosecutor at the Busan high public prosecutor’s office and another chief prosecutor Han Boo-whan left the prosecution after tendering their resignations on Mar.7. While expressing their shame on the current situation, they urged the government not to hurt the prosecution’s political neutrality and independence in the name of reform.

Sang-Rok Lee myzodan@donga.com