[EDITORIALS]Prosecutor General Should ResignProsecutor General Shin Seung-nam did not appear before the National Assembly's Judiciary Committee on Monday. He will not accept the call of the main opposition Grand National Party, he says, even if opposition parties have the votes in the Assembly to compel him to do so. He says no prosecutor general has ever testified at the National Assembly, and appearing there would open the door for political pressure on the prosecutors' right to investigate and indict criminals.
This is a sensitive issue involving prosecutorial independence. The Prosecutor General has distanced himself from the National Assembly since 1970 because of a widespread belief that law enforcement must be protected, so the GNP should be circumspect in its efforts to make him appear. The independence of the prosecutors office and its neutrality from political influence in the long term must be taken into consideration by the opposition parties.
But we cannot sympathize with Mr. Shin if he personally cites those reasons for not appearing. He does not deserve to fall back on those principles. People are more infuriated at the attempts of the prosecution to conceal scandals involving influential figures than they are at the scandals themselves. Mr. Shin served as a deputy prosecutor general and prosecutor general when these scandals occurred. The prosecution office under Mr. Shin was said to be involved with gangsters and has been criticized for studying the body language of influential politicians.
Every time prosecutors concluded an investigation of a corruption case, there were outcries to name independent counsels to look into the cases again. As a result, prosecutors' morale is at a low point. But the public agrees with Kim Jong-pil, president of the United Liberal Democrats, when he scolded the prosecutors and pointed out that in the absence of such botched investigations, the head of the office would never have been summoned to testify.
Most people want to know how much the National Intelligence Service intervened in the prosecution's investigation of Chin Seung-hyun, who was indicted on charges of obtaining illegal loans and manipulating share prices. They also want to know why the prosecutor general's younger brother was implicated in the scandal and allegedly received two months' salary from one of Lee Yong-ho's companies. People believe that it is the obligation of the prosecution to clear up these suspicions. But many people also doubt that the prosecution under Mr. Shin can perform those jobs properly.
The image of the prosecution is already damaged, and the prosecutor general's appearance at the Assembly can hardly damage it further. The Millennium Democratic Party is upbraiding the main opposition for attempting to cripple the government's authority, but the prosecution has already lost its authority even without attacks from the GNP.
The Kim Dae-jung administration will have to manage four major events next year: the FIFA World Cup games, local elections, the Busan Asian Games and the presidential election. If President Kim wants to keep his pledge that he will focus his undivided attention on those events, stable governmental authority is essential. If a government's authority is damaged, no one will obey orders from the government. If the conflict between politicians and the prosecution continues, it will detract from the stable management of national affairs.
So there is only one other choice for the prosecutor general. He should resign. Mr. Shin might feel that he is being mistreated, but there is no other choice left for him to save the credibility of the prosecutors office － which he has emphasized － and to give the Kim administration a chance to finish its term in dignity.