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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Sept. 7)

Editorials from Korean Dailies 09:39 September 07, 2019

'Political' prosecution
Illegal leakage of information hurts trust

The embattled justice minister nominee Cho Kuk vowed to carry out the ongoing judicial reform centered on limiting the prosecution's power in a way that "no one can reverse it," if appointed, in a confirmation hearing, Friday.

Reforming the prosecution is a political zeitgeist of this country at this time. Needless to say, the prosecution has often drawn severe public criticism for its biased investigations serving the needs of those in power and certain politicians.

In doing so, some prosecutors have illegally leaked to the media information they had obtained through searches and interrogations with a view to distorting public opinions about certain suspects before trials.

One tragic example of this was a bribery investigation into the wife of former President Roh Moo-hyun that ultimately led to his death in 2009. At the time, there were massive media reports that Roh's wife, Kwon Yang-sook, threw away a pair of expensive watches she had received from a businessman as a gift at a rice paddy to evade an investigation. These reports quickly made Roh a public mockery, and days later he committed suicide. Later, a senior prosecutor who led this probe revealed that the media reports were based on leaked information from the prosecution, and it was all maneuvered by then-National Intelligence Service chief Won Sei-hoon.

This has become a symbolic incident often cited by supporters of prosecution reform. As such, the principles of fairness and political neutrality have often been broken especially in conducting investigations into politicians. It is true that the prosecution has long been used as a key tool for consolidation of power.

Unfortunately, what is happening to Cho Kuk is reminiscent of the "Rice Paddy Watch" drama.

There has been massive media coverage of fraud and corruption allegations surrounding Cho's family, especially his wife and daughter. It is becoming more evident that many of these reports were based on information leaked by prosecution insiders to conservative politicians, and then to the media.

In Friday's hearing, Rep. Kim Jin-tae of the Liberty Korea Party showed a document that he claimed was retrieved from Cho's seized computer.

Kim showed the file while making his case about Cho's possible ethical lapses, but it was also the moment that he was telling the world that he had received it from someone inside the prosecution because the computer was seized recently. How did he get it? Who delivered it to Kim? Given he has been sourced in a number of malicious reports about Cho, Kim should answer these questions.

This should be thoroughly investigated separately from the ongoing investigation into the suspicions surrounding Cho and his relatives.

That's because this case can throw the credibility of the prosecution's investigations into Cho's family into doubt.

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