Special entity needed to tackle corrupt prosecutors
The prosecution has been exercising exclusive authority to indict and control police investigations.
The late President Roh Moo-hyun had tried to set up an independent entity in an apparent bid to check the power of prosecutors, but failed due to tough resistance from the prosecution and conservative lawmakers.
The independent entity refers to a new state agency, which would be specialized in investigating corruption cases involving high-ranking government officials as well as prosecutors.
The urgent need for such an entity has come to the fore again in the wake of the so-called “jackpot prosecutor” scandal.
Jin Kyung-joon, a vice minister-level prosecutor received some unlisted shares in local mobile game developer Nexon. He made significant gains by selling them after Nexon was listed on the Japanese bourse.
About four months ago, allegations against him were made public, including suspicions that he had pocketed some 12 billion won ($10.5 million) through the shady transactions of Nexon shares.
Jin, at that time, denied the allegation.
The Justice Ministry had also immediately downplayed suspicions. A ministry official was quoted by a news provider in early April as saying that Jin “has internally verified how he came to trade the stocks.”
However, Jin was taken into custody earlier this month over the stock deal, becoming the first vice minister-level prosecutor in the 68-year history of the nation’s prosecution service to be arrested while in office. He is also alleged to have pressured Hanjin Group to award contracts worth 13 billion won to a cleaning company run by his brother-in-law in return for halting investigations into the group for alleged tax evasion.
Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong and Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam had to apologize over Jin’s alleged malfeasance.
The top prosecutor suggested that the evaluation of asset increases for high-ranking prosecutors should be strengthened to prevent corruption.
Yet few, if any, took the apologies and reform pledges of the two top officials seriously. The public is well aware that the prosecution cannot be reformed by simply strengthening monitoring of prosecutors’ assets or banning investment in equities.
In 2014, the nation’s top court confirmed a prison term and fines for a former senior prosecutor for taking kickbacks worth at least 400 million won from suspects engaged in business irregularities. A former chief of Jeju District Prosecutors’ Office was arrested for masturbating on a street in the same year. Earlier, there was a corruption scandal involving so-called “sponsor prosecutors,” who kept corrupt ties with wealthy people. And the so-called “Grandeur prosecutor” and “Benz prosecutor” who received luxury sedans in kickbacks.
As usual, the Justice Ministry and the prosecutors’ office have not been active in probing their “families” before the prosecutor-implicated incidents brought severe public criticism.
Now some ruling party lawmakers are again downplaying the necessity of a new independent investigation agency to probe state officials. Opponents include lawmakers who previously served as prosecutors.
The opponents may have their own logic, including concerns over possible side effects. However, it is still unpleasant to hear some lawmakers yelling “for the sake of the people” or “for the sake of justice” after desperately blocking their Assembly colleagues from addressing the vested interests that frustrate the people.
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