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[Opinion] Power and Prosecutors

Posted August. 17, 2003 21:54,   


Prosecutors in continental Europe including Germany, France and Italy are known to wield far-reaching influences when it comes to investigational power. Apart from filing charges, they are allowed to conduct independent investigations and have control over the police. Their British and American counterparts, however, are limited in authorities, mostly engaging in filing and proceeding with charges. Countries known for extensive prosecutors` authorities mostly adopt a parliamentary system. And public servants in such countries tend to have a strong sense of professionalism.

This country follows the continental tradition despite the fact that power is centered on the president. Prosecutors` duty of conducting investigations and filing charges, therefore, tend to be affected by the president, who makes key decisions such as appointments of high-ranking officials. Former dictator Park Jung-hee was known to exercise a far-reaching influence over the judiciary branch as well as the prosecution via the powerful central intelligence agency. General Jeon Doo-hwan, who was from the security command office, put more focus on boosting morale of the police while considering prosecutors a group of legal experts serving the central government. Prosecutors were still cozying up with the president during the Roh government.

Kim Young-sam and Kim Dae-jung, who had been opposition leaders and often subjects of prosecutors` investigations, took indecisive steps while pledging reform of the prosecutors` office. It was in part because they did not understand the nature of the agency and the judiciary mechanism. Yet, they made an error of sticking to close associates when it comes to appointing key officials. Although both of them had to send their sons to prison, therefore, public trust in the prosecutors` office remained low.

The relationship between prosecutors and the incumbent Roh government was tense at the beginning as the country saw its first lawyer-turned- president. After colliding head on with the president over appointment of top prosecutors, the prosecutors` office is now aggressively investigating sweet heart deals between politicians and businessmen. Some are even saying something about `fascist prosecutors`, but it is their job to clean up social ills. For the future of the country and the people, it would be better for the president to remain detached from prosecutors` investigations.

Hong Chan-shik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com

Chung Sung-jin, Guest Writer, President of Kookmin University, sjchung@kookmin.ac.kr