[EDITORIALS]Is the Prosecution Salvageable?

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[EDITORIALS]Is the Prosecution Salvageable?

The prosecution has been found to have favored senior officials at the National Intelligence Service who were involved in scandals involving the start-up companies owned by Chung Hyun-joon, Chin Seung-hyun, and Lee Yong-ho. The prosecution concealed information about the involvement of the government officials. This all comes as another enormous shock to the public. It was disclosed that the prosecution ignored statements from suspects that they gave tens of millions of won to ruling party lawmakers and senior intelligence officials. The prosecution is simply not doing its work properly. Then, when the facts were disclosed, the prosecution offered to reinvestigate the cases. With its credibility in tatters, we doubt that the prosecution can dig up the truth regarding the incidents.

There are many traces of prosecution efforts to conceal and minimize the officials' involvement. One example is the detention and indictment of Kim Hyung-yoon, former head of economic intelligence at the National Intelligence Service, only after press reports triggered an outcry.

According to those reports, the prosecution had ignored for 10 months a statement from Lee Kyung-ja, vice chairwoman of Dongbang Mutual Savings and Finance, saying that she gave 10 million won ($7,790) to Kim Hyung-yoon.

Another example is the prosecution's attempt to wrap up its investigation into suspicions that Kim Eun-seong, deputy director of the NIS in charge of domestic intelligence, received 10 million won.

Prosecutors concluded that the money was not intended as a bribe to Kim Eun-seong. The prosecution also reportedly ignored a statement from an alleged lobbyist for Mr. Chin, Kim Jae-hwan, the former chairman of a local firm. Mr. Kim said that he gave 50 million won to a ruling-party lawmaker and 40 million won to Chung Sung-hong, head of the economic division at the National Intelligence Service.

We can hardly believe that such decisions were taken by working-level prosecutors. We can easily guess that every development in the investigations of the scandals must have been reported to higher levels in the prosecution since the cases were politically sensitive. Who was briefed on the matters, and who made the decisions to drop and conceal those cases?

They all concerned senior officials of powerful organizations and politicians of the ruling party, and they were without exception suppressed and concealed. They must have been intentional.

If they were, both the investigators at the Seoul District Prosecutors Office and the senior prosecutors above them should have been held accountable. But all of them were later promoted to very important positions in the prosecutors office.

Under such circumstances, how can the prosecution dare to volunteer to reinvestigate the matters? That is shameless, especially if the prosecutors at the Seoul district office take on the cases again. Is it likely that wrongdoing at the office will be uncovered and corrected by the junior officials who moved into those seats when the persons originally involved were promoted? The prosecution seems to be treating the current situation very lightly.

The prosecution has no reason to exist if it becomes powerless whenever it faces political power. The prosecution, having contributed to build up the "Republic of Corruption" by closing its eyes to wrongdoing, deserves to be criticized for dereliction of its responsibility. We recall President Kim Dae-jung's words very clearly: "The country can stand straight only if the prosecution stands straight."

Restructuring the prosecution is more urgent than reinvestigation of the scandals. The prosecution should be comprehensively held accountable and needs to be thoroughly cleaned out and a new staff installed.

A new team of investigators, with good capabilities and strong wills, should look into the scandals only after the people can believe that they can once again trust the prosecution to do its job with clean hands. The government should keep in mind that things are so serious that a mere gesture to reinvestigate past misdeeds will not be enough to quell the people's wrath.

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