[EDITORIALS]Clean up the prosecutors

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[EDITORIALS]Clean up the prosecutors

All eyes are on the Prosecutor's Office with the resignation of Prosecutor General Shin Seung-nam. It is not a desirable thing that a prosecutor general with a stated term of office guaranteed is forced to step down. But with the fall of the office in the esteem of the public and younger brother Shin Seung-hwan's involvement in a financial scandal, there seemed to have been little choice. The task of recovering the public's confidence is what the soon-to-be named successor of Mr. Shin faces.

Looking back, the writing was on the wall for this downfall and disgrace of the Prosecutor's Office. After a string of blunders and the failure to secure its independence when it could, the office can be said to deserve what it's getting. The first of these telltale signs was the incident involving corrupt judges and prosecutors in Daejeon. Then followed the arrests of then-Minister of Justice Kim Tae-joung and Senior Presidential Secretary for Legal Affairs Park Joo-sun in the "furgate" scandal. With the arrest of senior prosecutor Chin Hyung-gu after he admitted rigging a strike at the state-run minting corporation in 1999, it should have been obvious where the prosecution was headed. The independent counsel introduced for the first time in the aftermaths of the "furgate" and the "strike-rigging" scandals should have been a stepping stone for a reform of the office, but the opportunity was clumsily lost.

Accusations of a partisan investigation into election campaign offenses, the Assembly motion for the impeachment of the prosecutor general and the arrest of Shin Kwang-ok, a former vice minister of justice on charges of bribery?hese incidents destroyed the last vestiges of the dignity of the prosecution. Now, with a string of little brothers who are accused of having borrowed the authority of their elders in the Prosecutor's Office in the "venture-gate," the office has no way to respond plausibly.

There is no place to hide. The office must start tending to its wounds with determination. The office must reform its internal organization and boost morale to regain the dignity and integrity it needs to perform its duties. President Kim has declared that he will call for a special investigative prosecutors office for important bribery cases, but with the entire office unable to perform its proper duties, this step will be nothing but building a sand castle by the waves.

The independence of decisions to prosecute and shields against political interference should be established. There should never be downsizing, cover-up, partial ruling or misrepresentation of political wrongdoing or bribery cases by the authorities. The Prosecutor's Office should convince the public of its determination for reform, starting on this case of "venture-gate" bribery.

Our country is getting so swallowed up in corruption that we might as well call ourselves the republic of total corruption. The ultimate blame for this situation is at the prosecutors' doorstep. Corruption could not have become so rampant if the office had been doing its job correctly. What could be expected when the prosecutors themselves were involved in these incidents of wrongdoing and corruption? The office must be fair in doling out punishment to its own wrongdoers and make clear that these things must not happen again.

There must be a clean sweep in the top posts in the office. The public has serious misgivings about the legitimacy of the current prosecutors. "Venture-gate" saw to that. We should keep in mind that the faster the Prosecutor's Office regains its authority, the better it will be for the interests of the whole government.
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