[EDITORIALS]Prosecutors Should Come Clean

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[EDITORIALS]Prosecutors Should Come Clean

Suspicions that Lee Yong-ho, chairman of the G&G Group, lobbied high-ranking officials and engaged in irregular financial dealings continue to grow. It is daunting to see the names of such a variety of powerful figures brought up in an embezzlement and share price manipulation case involving an executive of a medium-sized company. The list includes senior prosecutors, key ruling party politicians, and officials of the National Intelligence Service, the National Tax Service and the Financial Supervisory Service.

At the core of this incident are criminal charges against Mr. Lee, prosecutors' alleged attempt to go easy on him, and lobbying efforts and pressure wielded by politicians and other high-ranking officials on behalf of Mr. Lee. The suspicions first arose when investigators of the Supreme Prosecutors Office detained Mr. Lee on the same charges that the Seoul District Prosecutors Office chose to drop in May 2000 a day after his arrest. The suspicions began to snowball when it was confirmed that the prosecution last year insisted on detaining Mr. Lee but that senior prosecutors, including a current high prosecutor and a former prosecutor general, wielded their influence for his release. Coincidentally, the Seoul District Prosecutors Office also chose to drop charges against an official at the National Intelligence Service last year even after discovering evidence that he had received 50 million won ($38,000) in bribes.

Though Justice Minister Choi Kyung-won issued a special directive to Prosecutor General Shin Seung-nam for a thorough investigation, questions on whether the inquiry will get off the ground persist, given the prosecutors' failure to see the problem at hand clearly. Just listen to the Supreme Prosecutors Office, which said, "Prosecutors are already conducting a thorough investigation in accordance with the right principles and methods." It said prosecutors cannot help but resort to legal action if the media undermines their credibility with specious accusations.

This is one of the largest scandal ever involving the public prosecution. Droves of high-ranking prosecutors may be involved. To garner public trust for their investigation, prosecutors need to eradicate the suspicions. They should not forget that their prestige depends on how this incident is resolved.
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