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Female Prosecutors Making Their Mark in Judiciary

Posted August. 01, 2009 07:33,   


“Kim” is someone who is called a “standard” female prosecutor in Korea.

The Dong-A Ilbo did a survey of 318 female prosecutors through analysis of Justice Ministry data. The finding was that the average female prosecutor is 32 years old and a graduate from a foreign language high school and Seoul National University’s College of Law.

The survey analyzed 10 items, including their hometowns, alma mater, age and departments they work in.

Kim comes closest to the average female prosecutor. She is 33, was born in Seoul, graduated from Hanyoung Foreign Language High School and Seoul National’s College of Law, and is working in the crime department of a prosecutors’ office.

She is a new generation of prosecutor, who learned from the corruption scandal involving the son of former President Kim Young-sam and the 2003 case of illegal campaign funds investigated by the central investigation department of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office.

She described an episode while working at the Dongbu branch of the Busan District Public Prosecutors’ Office last year. Kim investigated a man suspected in four sexual assaults and a murder. The suspect scornfully told Kim, “What’s the matter with you, cute female prosecutor? Please take it easy.”

Kim conducted the probe thoroughly, however. In a cool-minded fashion, she discovered two more alleged murders by the suspect. Kim sought a 10-year prison term for him and he got seven.

Afterwards, the suspect dared not look Kim in the eyes when he saw her at trials.

○ No longer in the minority

On “sponsored prosecutors” who receive bribes from “sponsors,” a practice disclosed in confirmation hearings for former Prosecutor-General nominee Chun Sung-gwan, Kim said, “I worked as a prosecutor for three years but have never heard of a sponsored prosecutor.”

She added with a smile, “I wished to meet someone who would buy me a lunch.”

“It is no longer the norm that female prosecutors have to go on drinking binges with fellow prosecutors and investigators ignore instructions from female prosecutors.”

A female prosecutor can now decline drinking boilermakers, and staff at prosecutors’ offices say they prefer female prosecutors for the friendlier mood they bring to the office.

Kim has complained of no disadvantage as a female prosecutor despite being in a male-dominated profession. When she first joined the prosecution in 2007, the number of women was just around 200. That has since risen to 318, or 18 percent of the country’s 1,769 prosecutors.

If the trend continues, female prosecutors will become the majority in the sector around 2020.

○ ‘Soft charisma for success’

On the ideal image of the prosecution, Kim said, “Prosecutors need to become friendlier and have a service-oriented mind.”

“Threatening a suspect in the investigation will not guarantee success. Prosecutors must listen to what people involved in cases have to say and investigate in a friendlier fashion,” she said, stressing the need for more female prosecutors.

On the lack of female prosecutors in departments for special cases and national security, she said, “It is just as important to hear low-profile cases in society as special and national security cases. I think friendly prosecutors who shed authoritarianism and those with ‘soft charisma’ are the future of prosecutors.”

So how senior prosecutors perceive their female counterparts?

Kim Yeong-joon of the Seongnam branch of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office said “It constitutes discrimination against female prosecutors to give difficult and sensitive assignment only to male prosecutors. We must treat male and female prosecutors equally.”

A senior prosecutor at the Seoul Central District Public Prosecutor’s Office said, “Female prosecutors themselves also must consider themselves prosecutors rather than female prosecutors.”

A ranking prosecutor at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office said, “Female prosecutors carry out assignments accurately and thoroughly, but relatively lack the capacity to find clues and judge a case from a broader perspective.”