Prosecutors are leaving.
With reform sweeping the prosecutors office (PO) and efforts mounting to keep the prosecutors in check, the leading prosecutors are driving a resignation rush.
From within and outside the PO, some say that the prosecutors inability to accept the trend of the times is what triggered the resignations. Others are concerned that the outflow of talented human resources can severely contract the positive functions and role of the PO.
According to an announcement by the Supreme Prosecutors Office and the Ministry of Justice on Wednesday, as many as 72 prosecutors have resigned this year as of September 20.
Considering the total number of prosecutors in Korea, which is around 1,500, this means that around five percent of all prosecutors have resigned this year. This gives way to the prediction that the resignation toll will reach nearly 100 by the years end. Looking at year-by-year figures, 56 prosecutors left their post in 2000, followed by 42 in 2001, and 41 in 2002. After the Roh Moo-hyun administration inaugurated, the number increased to 63 in 2003 and 62 in 2004. This year marked the highest number yet.
Particularly worrisome is the fact that many of the prosecutors who recently resigned are director-level prosecutors who form the backbone of the prosecutors office organization and prosecutors involved in special investigations, a work which has been considered as honorary. As many as 11 director prosecutors have resigned.
Within the PO, the largest contributor to the recent flood of resignations is damaged honor and pride of prosecutors by checks and criticism against the PO from within and outside the office.
One high-level prosecutor who formerly worked at the central investigations department said, These days, the reality is that even if we work day and night to eliminate scourges and establish justice, all we get in return are being called bad names, let alone honor or compensation. I think prosecutors nowadays feel like it would be better to quit and live at peace than to only receive unfair criticism at work.
Another highly influential factor at work is the mounting, centered check against the PO due to power struggles that have emerged in this administration. Some of the examples are the controversy over rejecting evidential capacity of prosecutors investigation documents, newly establishing a separate investigation agency on corruption of high-level public officials, and arranging the investigative power between the PO and the police. Equally important is the fact that civic groups are pointing fingers at the PO as a group that should be reformed and criticized.