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Prosecutor Backgrounds Diversifying

Posted November. 25, 2006 08:10,   


Dong-A Ilbo’s legal team and digital news team, along with Chung-Ang University’s Professor Lee Min-kyu (Department of Mass Communication), used Computer Assisted Reporting (CAR) to analyze the personal information of prosecutors from 1992 to 2006. Prosecutors who have graduated from Seoul National University’s College of Law decreased from 1/2 in 1992 to 1/3 in 2006.

In 1992, the proportion of prosecutors who graduated from Seoul National University’s College of Law were 53.6% (465), but has steadily decreased to 48.2% (527) in 1997, 39.9% (543) in 2002, and 34.4% (540) in 2006.

In the past, prosecutors who have taken the “elite” course, graduating from the four major prestigious high schools (Gyeonggi, Gyeongbuk, Jeonju, and Gwangju First High School) and then going on to Seoul National University’s College of Law, decreased from 154 (17.8%) to 68 (4.3%) in 1992.

In the past, it was a running joke that most prosecutors were “smart, cranky, and of B blood type,” but now there is a lot more diversity in the backgrounds of prosecutors. The old assumption that prosecutors have a law degree from SNU no longer holds true.

One female cellist, who first started playing the cello in third grade and continued to for the next fifteen years, one day picked up a criminal law book in her mid twenties.

She graduated from a music school and gave lessons, and played in an orchestra, but she was always uncertain about her unclear future. Her father recommended that she try studying law. Her father is a prosecutor-turned-lawyer. Chang Yoon-young (32, 44th Bar Exam), now a prosecutor in the Jeju District Prosecutor’s Office, said, “Legal texts were completely new to me, but it was interesting.”

Chang, who graduated Seoul Arts High School and from SNU College of Music with a degree from the Department of Instrumental Performance, studied for three years and passed the Korean Bar Exam. She finished the Judicial Research and Training Institute in 2005 and without a moment’s hesitation, became a prosecutor. “I thought being a prosecutor, to actively seek things, would be worthwhile.”

Lee Myeong-shin (37, female, 39th Bar Exam), a graduate of the Department of International Relations at SNU, was a judge for 5 years and became a prosecutor at the Seoul Central District prosecutors’ office last year. He is known as an expert in computer investigations. Other prosecutors with different backgrounds are: Ahn Yeong Lim (28, female, 45th Bar Exam), a graduate of the Indian language department at the Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, who is now a prosecutor with Daejeon Prosecutor’s Office, and Kwon Jung-yeong (42, 34th Bar Exam), a graduate of the Department of Archeology and Art History at SNU.

Kwon said “Archeological studies and the activities of a prosecutor are similar in that they both involve putting together pieces of clues to find the truth.”

There are many talents with a science and technology background as well. Kim Ju-hwa (28, female, 44th Bar Exam) a prosecutor with Changwon Prosecutor’s Office, and Hong Bo-ga (36, female, 41st Bar Exam) with the Suwon Prosecutor’s Office are both from KAIST.

In 1992, there was only one prosecutor with a science degree, but there are now 15. Engineering majors have increased from 7 to 18.

But in the higher levels, from chief public prosecutors and up, law degree holders are dominant. Currently of the 46 prosecutors from the higher levels, there is only one prosecutor without a law education from university: Park Yeong-su (54, 20th Bar Exam, Department of Philosophy) head of the Central Prosecution Department at the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office. Of all prosecutors in Korea, the percentage without law degrees was only 5.9% in 1992, but increased to 11.5% in 2002 and 17.6% in 2006. Now the numbers have shifted and 2 out of 10 have studied other disciplines. Majors of humanities and social sciences increased, whereas legal students have not. Only 2.2% were majors of social sciences in 1992, but this year there is 9.8%, and prosecutors with degrees from humanities departments now account for 4.2%, from 2.0% in 1992.

Some say that as there increasingly less “elite” prosecutors, the quality of the organization has fallen. But most say that there are more positive effects, with less cases of using hometown and alumni connections. The analysis of the changes in prosecutors for the past 14 years, the first of its kind, took three months, starting with basic data input in August. With the personnel information from carried out from 1992 to 2006, Professor Lee’s research team input the hometown, high school, university, and major of each prosecutor. Then Dong-a Ilbo’s digital news team used CAR to analyze the material.