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[Editorial] Probe Into Taekwang Scandal Must Continue

Posted June. 04, 2009 08:20,   


Prosecutor-General Lim Chae-jin tendered his resignation yesterday, saying, “Though I did my best, an unimaginable accident caused sorrow to many people. As the prosecutor-general who led this investigation, I sincerely apologize to the people.” He added, “I believe I should not continue to lead prosecutors as a person who cannot maintain a tranquil mind due to mental anguish.”

Understandably, Lim could be in agony. He was appointed prosecutor-general by then President Roh Moo-hyun in November 2007, three months before Roh’s term ended. Leading the investigation into the person who appointed him must have resulted in big pressure on Lim. Roh’s suicide occurred in the middle of the investigation, and must have been a bolt out of the blue. But holding prosecutors accountable is only a political offensive led by leftist groups and media, making prosecutors feel helpless. A prosecutor-general, whose term is guaranteed for two years, should not step down before ending an investigation subject to heavy public scrutiny.

The rejection of an arrest warrant for Chun Shin-il, the head of a travel company and President Lee Myung-bak’s confidant, must have affected Lim’s decision to resign. Due to the rejection, Lim might have feared rising controversy over not being able to conduct the probe properly. Still, many other investigations remain unfinished, such as alleged lobbying to avoid a tax audit and investigation of suspects including former and incumbent lawmakers, senior judges and prosecutors, and provincial officials. Lim should have thought more deeply over his resignation at a time when prosecutors are marginalized by the offensive of the political opposition and candlelight protesters.

The main opposition Democratic Party has demanded the firing of the justice minister, prosecutor-general and the lead investigator of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office. The party is suing the investigation team for releasing information on the investigation to the public. In addition, it has urged a parliamentary inspection of the investigation process, an independent probe into President Lee’s confidants, and the disintegration of the central investigation department of the prosecutors’ office. Lim calling it quits should not add fuel to the opposition’s offensive.

Lim tendered his resignation on the date of Roh’s death, but was rejected by Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han. This time, however, it seems impossible to get him to retract his decision because he looks determined. Appointing a new prosecutor-general could take a while because of the required verification process and confirmation hearings at the National Assembly. Until a new prosecutor-general is named, Deputy Prosecutor General Moon Seong-woo and the head of the prosecutors’ office’s central investigation department Lee In-gyu must continue to lead the investigation of former Taekwang Industry CEO Park Yeon-cha.