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Prosecution with more autonomy and responsibility

Posted April. 13, 2013 07:47,   


Chae Dong-wook, the newly appointed prosecutor-general, has vowed that he would not, in principle, intervene in prosecutors` handling of cases. Prosecutors handling politically sensitive cases have made it a practice of reporting to the prosecutor-general for instructions. It is welcome news that the top prosecutor has promised to stop such a practice.

The prosecutor-general has the authority to command all duties of all prosecutors. There is no legal problem if the prosecutor-general gives instructions on whether to detain a suspect or not and even on the penalty to be sought for. Last year, however, the then Prosecutor-General Han Sang-dae was suspected to have ordered prosecutors to seek a four-year prison term for SK Group Chairman Chey Tae-won, who was indicted on charges of embezzlement. The four-year term was far less than the judiciary`s standard sentences of five to eight years for similar crimes. If the suspicion was true, it is clear unfair. Prosecutor-General Chae said he would accept the conclusion on whether suspects are guilty or not, which is reached by prosecutors and a relevant unit of the Supreme Prosecutors` Office. Although he did not mention his stance on penalties sought for, he should not intervene in the issue, either, in principle.

Unlike the judiciary, the prosecution considers all prosecutors one identity. Though trials are the authority of judges, not that of courts, conducting investigations or indict suspects is the authority of the prosecution, not that of a prosecutor. However, such a principle should not be considered a carte blanche for the top prosecutor. The purpose of the principle is to prevent the result of probes or indictment from varying depending on who is the prosecutor on a case, but not to allow the prosecutor-general to make arbitrary decisions. If the prosecutor-general`s self-restraint over his exercise of commanding authority ensures greater fairness in investigations or indictments, it is right to do so.

A court sentenced a junior prosecutor to two years behind bars Thursday for having inappropriate sexual relations with a female suspect. A senior prosecutor has been put on trial for having allegedly received nearly a million U.S. dollars` worth of bribes. There were other prosecutors who took inappropriate gifts. The public trust in the prosecution will be recovered only when it guarantees autonomy of prosecutors but hold them strictly responsible for wrongful handling of their cases.