Prosecutor-turned lawyer Jung Soon-shin who was appointed as the chief of the National Office of Investigation on Friday stepped down in just one day. President Yoon Suk Yeol canceled his appointment on Saturday as Chung was put under heavy criticism over his inappropriate handling of his son’s school violence case. Amid unusual chaos, the chief position of the National Office of Investigation who carries the heavy responsibility of leading 30,000 police investigators will be left open for a while.
Jung’s son was referred to the school violence committee at a famous autonomous private high school he entered in 2017 as he verbally abused his classmate who shared the same room with him in the dorm by calling him a pig and a commie. Jung who was a prosecutor at the time did not admit his son’s responsibility by saying that context matters in verbal abuse and was involved in writing a statement for his son. When the school decided to transfer his son to another school, Jung requested re-evaluation and took the case to the supreme court by filing administrative litigation. He lost the case but his son’s transfer was delayed for about a year due to legal procedures. The victim suffered longer due to Jung’s litigation, rather than self-reflection and apology.
The media reported the case in 2018. The current governmental appointment procedures state that civil or administrative suits related to candidates for public positions, their spouses, parents, or children should be checked. However, the National Police Agency and the presidential office are avoiding responsibility by saying that their verification was limited as it regarded his son. The Personnel Information Management Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, which was set up to enhance the verification and transparency of personnel matters, has not even confirmed if verification of matters related to Jung was conducted. In addition, Jung also defended Kim Man-bae in the Daejang-dong scandal case. Questions were raised about the qualification of Jung, who defended the key figure of the large-scale corruption case until early last year, but it was not considered an issue in the verification process.
Jung worked as a human rights inspector with President Yoon when he was serving as the chief prosecutor of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. He also went through training at the Judicial Research and Training Institute with Minister of Justice Han Dong-hoon and Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok in the same year. The positions related to personnel matters and verification in the presidential office, including senior officer to the president for personnel affairs, secretary for personnel affairs, and secretary to the president for public office discipline, are all former prosecutors. This is why there is criticism about the legitimacy of the verification of Jung. Jung stepping down from the position is not the end of the matter. Those responsible for the poor verification should be identified and investigated, and the personnel matter and verification positions filled with former prosecutors should be reformed.