[EDITORIALS]Right man for prosecution

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[EDITORIALS]Right man for prosecution

The prosecution has opened a new era with a new chief, Lee Myung-jae. The appointment of a nonincumbent prosecutor to the post of prosecutor general is the first such action since 1973, when Kim Chi-yul moved from the Korean Central Intelligence Agency to the Supreme Prosecutor's Office. The move is exceptional, underscoring the trouble the prosecution is caught in.

Mr. Lee brings with him a great deal of expectation. His strength is foremost in the trust and integrity he commands both within the prosecution and in the private legal community. That much was obvious in the nearly unanimous welcome voiced by the ruling and the opposition parties. When he left public service in May by resigning from the top post at the Seoul High Prosecutor's Office, the media dubbed it "a beautiful exit." What he said at the time about the prosecution's way of doing things correctly - to do the best not to punish anyone unfairly and to work hard to make sure the guilty pay the price - is still talked about.

Another advantage is his reputation as "the best investigative prosecutor of the time," particularly from his experience with scores of high-profile cases. He is generally considered the best fit to do the job facing the prosecution, which is to sort through mazes of corruption and improprieties.

He is also sure to bring a degree of objectivity in his view of the prosecution. He was on the outside last year when the prosecution went through some of its worst times in history. That was perhaps perfectly reflected in his statement to reporters gathered outside his house Wednesday night. "I understand very well what the people want from the prosecution," he said.

There is no shortage of demands and prescriptions for reforming the prosecution, but they can be summed up in one simple phrase: a prosecution that does the right thing, not swayed by pressure from the outside. This is a common idea, but the past has shown that putting it into practice is not easy.

For an organization that has become accustomed to the bad habit of checking the pulse of its surroundings and lining up before those in power whenever there are personnel reshuffles, reform means a complete change of its structure and culture.

Reform of the prosecution must begin with an audit and inspection of the organization from within. And the focus must be on scrapping the appointment practice based more than anything else on who you know and where you are from. There should no longer be a place for political prosecutors in the organization. And prosecutors who were involved in what at first seemed to be major cases, which suspiciously ended in disappointing results, must be held accountable.

The outrageous commentary, "Prosecutors that make a mess of political scandal cases are considered for the next promotion," must be disproved. The new prosecutor general's first job is simple enough. He needs to make sure the four major scandals are investigated and closed without a trace of doubt or suspicion. This will go a long way toward clearing up the disgrace.

As he was leaving the prosecution last year, Mr. Lee told the younger prosecutors who remained, "A great prosecutor is born not from the position he holds but from the conviction and passion he holds for justice."

We pray that Mr. Lee's conviction and passion for justice have not changed, and we count on his reputation to make him the great prosecutor general who will make the long-cherished independence of the prosecution a reality.

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