[EDITORIALS]Give the New Prosecutor Some Time

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[EDITORIALS]Give the New Prosecutor Some Time

President Kim Dae-jung has named Shin Seung-nam as the new prosecutor general to oversee the country's audits and inspections. The government announced Monday that it has also appointed Ahn Dong-soo, an attorney, to replace Kim Jung-gil, the justice minister.

This is the first time that a new justice minister and prosecutor general are being named simultaneously, and the government proclaimed that it has taken regional and school ties into consideration. Kim Jung-gil, the departing justice minister, has the same Cholla province background as the new prosecutor general. Since the prosecutor general's term expires in May, it would have been more natural to have included the justice minister in the cabinet shakeup of March 26. The timing leaves the impression that cabinet and other high-level positions are not even planned two months in advance, and the new prosecutor general is labeled as having "pushed out the justice minister."

Neither is such a political situation helpful to Mr. Ahn as the new justice minister. He has no work experience as a high prosecution official, and because he left the prosecutor's office 26 years ago, he may have trouble administering it after so long an absence. The fact that he is currently a politician, head of one of the ruling party's chapters, could kindle a dispute over the neutrality of the prosecutors.

Mr. Shin, the prosecutor general-designate, was already seen two years ago as a candidate for the post. He passed screening in various areas, such as organization-handling ability, working capacity and prosecutorial experience, and his nomination as the prosecutor general was expected.

The people have high hopes for the Mr. Shin as a "prepared prosecutor general." Tasks he must handle are piled up inside and outside the organization. Internally, reactivating the organization is the most pressing. One can simply look at the role the prosecutor's office has played recently as the backbone of audits and inspections to understand the situation. Wasn't Mr. Shin himself exactly where the organization was seen crumbling most visibly? Much depends on the personnel, so how Mr. Shin will revamp the organization is a pressing question.

The external task is the consolidation of the independence and political impartiality of the prosecutor's office. We need equity and impartiality, so we need reform. There were a range of scandals involving clothes as bribes, dodge-drafting, major financial corruption linked with political circles, the national assemblymen who violated the election law in April 2000 and the alleged undercover dealing with North Koreans by New Korea Party officials for a shootout during the presidential campaign in 1997. The prosecution's handling of these issues was, plainly put, messy. Although the president repeatedly emphasized whenever the opportunity arose that "the prosecutor's office must stand upright for the country to stand upright," the opposite was true most of the time. If the new prosecution team also shies away from reform and focuses on self-protection, it will be misfortune not only for the office but the country as well.

We hope to see a new picture in the office led by Mr. Shin. If investigations are carried out based on principles without nothing off limits, and if the office works to eradicate corruption without being being cautious about treading on political toes, then it will surely deserve our applause. After berating the office for so long, the people should now watch patiently the actions of the new team.
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