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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on July 15)

All News 06:56 July 15, 2016

Reinventing prosecution
Nexon scandal shows there is a long way to go

A special prosecution team summoned senior prosecutor Jin Kyung-joon for questioning Thursday over the wealth he amassed through shares of Nexon, the nation's leading online gaming company.

Before entering the prosecutors' office in southern Seoul, he admitted partly to his wrongdoings and apologized for concealing the truth, surrounded by reporters. On Wednesday, prosecutors summoned Nexon founder and CEO Kim Jung-ju, Jin's Seoul National University alumni, over his alleged involvement in the shady stock trading.

In March, Jin was found to have made 12 billion won (about $10.5 million) last year by selling Nexon shares he purchased for 400 million won in 2005. This fact came to light in the course of a mandatory disclosure of personal wealth held by high-ranking public officials.

Suspicions arose immediately over how Jin was able to buy the coveted unlisted shares amid speculation that the Nexon founder offered them as de facto bribes to insure the fledgling company against any future prosecution investigations.

Doubts mounted further as Jin reiterated lies about the source of the 400 million won. At first, he said he had bought the shares with his own money, but later said during an inspection by an ethics committee that the money came from his mother-in-law. However, it turned out that Nexon lent the money to Jin for free.

Jin is also suspected of using luxury sedans provided by the gaming company under the name of his brother-in-law.

Most recently, it was revealed that he turned a blind eye to irregularities at Hanjin Group while serving as a prosecutor in Seoul investigating financial and tax crimes in 2009 and 2010. In return, one of the top 10 conglomerates entrusted a building cleaning service contract to a small company established by his brother-in-law.

If all these suspicions prove to be true, Jin deserves criticism for having used his public position as a means of conducting business. One cannot help but wonder how such a man has climbed the ladder to become one of the nation's highest-ranking prosecutors. It may be reasonable to guess that there are more people like him in the prosecution.

The point here is to uncover whether any favors were given to Nexon and its officials, including Kim. In fact, the prosecution might find it difficult to punish Jin if it fails to prove the existence of favors with clear evidence. And even if the existence of favors is upheld, it won't be easy to penalize him, considering the 10-year statute of limitations applied to bribery charges.

All this explains why the highest law enforcement agency should leave no stone unturned in investigating the suspicions thoroughly and bringing all offenders to justice.

The Nexon scandal shows that reforming the prosecution has been an unfinished national task. This is clearly evidenced from the fact that Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam launched the special investigation team reluctantly only after public opinion simmered.

The top prosecutor is tasked with restoring confidence and honor to the prosecution, but it's doubtful if he will be up to it. Now may be the time for reform from the outside once again.

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