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How Was a Dark Horse Nominated for Prosecutor General?

Posted June. 23, 2009 09:29,   


President Lee Myung-bak’s surprise nomination of Chun Sung-gwan for the country’s top prosecutor post Monday saw a number of twists and turns.

The chief public prosecutor of the Seoul High Public Prosecutors Office, Kwon Jae-jin, was considered the leading candidate for the position by the media.

He received a call from a presidential official around 10 a.m. Sunday and was told to prepare for the administration’s announcement of the prosecutor general nominee. Known for his prudent personality, Kwon seemed confident that he would be nominated for the post.

He even ordered another prosecutor and confidant to create materials for the media in the expectation of getting the nomination. Officials at the Justice Ministry and other prosecutors also said they heard a rumor that Kwon was a shoo-in.

One senior prosecutor said, “I had a meeting with some people including prosecutors and a presidential official Sunday morning. Shortly after 10 a.m., the presidential official received a call and said Kwon would be nominated as prosecutor general.”

High-ranking prosecutors and Justice Ministry officials even called Kwon to congratulate him.

On Sunday afternoon, however, rumors began to spread of a dark horse candidate for prosecutor general, but few doubted that Kwon would get the nomination.

Yet the presidential office ultimately nominated Chun Sung-gwan, chief of the Seoul District Prosecutors` Office. He had passed the bar and graduated from the Judicial Research and Training Institute three years after outgoing Prosecutor General Lim Chae-jin and two years later than Kwon.

A high-ranking prosecutor said the presidential office might have conducted a complicated process to select Chun.

Presidential officials in charge of civil affairs had clearly considered Kwon as the leading candidate, but exactly who recommended Chun for the post remains a mystery. Speculation is also rife over why President Lee changed his mind in nominating Chun Monday or if he had long considered Chun for prosecutor general.

Certain sources said President Lee had long considered Chun as a candidate, with one leading presidential official saying, “Chun had been mentioned since a week ago.”

The presidential office also said it sent agreement documents for background checks to high-ranking prosecutors including Kwon, Chun and Moon Seong-woo, senior prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office.

A ruling Grand National Party lawmaker said, “Kwon and Chun were chosen as the final two candidates late Friday.”

President Lee chose the two finalists on the grounds that Kwon hails from Daegu and went to the same high school as Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han. The president also cited Chun’s effective handling of the deadly Yongsan clash between protesters and police in February and the probe into a TV investigative news program’s false reporting on U.S. beef imports.

Sources said President Lee judged Chun to have the ability to reform the prosecution and that his nomination will give the impression that the central government cares about the Chungcheong provinces. Chun is a native of Nonsan, South Chungcheong Province.

After Chun’s nomination, Kwon and Kim Joon-kyu, the head of the Daejeon High Public Prosecutors’ Office, announced their resignations Monday, saying, “We don’t want Chun to feel any pressure.”

yongari@donga.com jin0619@donga.com