[EDITORIALS]The prosecutor's brother

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[EDITORIALS]The prosecutor's brother

The independent counsel investigating the financial fraud case of Lee Yong-ho, president of G&G Group, has decided to seek a detention warrant on bribery charges for Shin Seung-hwan, younger brother of Prosecutor-General Shin Seung-nam. The decision overturns an investigation by the prosecutor's office, adding another page of infamy for Korea's prosecutors.

Realistically, not many were expecting anything new from the independent counsel's inquiry. The decision to name an independent counsel came while the prosecution investigation was still in progress. Mr. Lee was investigated in May 2000, and when senior prosecutors were found to be involved in covering up his crime, the prosecutors promised to get to the bottom of the allegations and questions. The justice minister ordered a thorough reinvestigation. A special audit team was set up. Thus, disappointment greets the news that the independent counsel has so quickly overturned the prosecution's investigation results.

The independent counsel has yet to confirm any criminal wrongdoing by Mr. Shin. It has been charged that a sum of dubious money was funneled into bank accounts of Mr. Shin's acquaintances, but that cannot be determined as a crime. The issue at heart is how to regard the 50 million won ($38,000) Mr. Shin received from Mr. Lee. The prosecutors last year determined that the money was salary and a signing bonus given with nothing expected in return. But the independent counsel is interpreting the money as a return for influence.

Common sense finds it hard to understand that a person would freely give away 50 million won without any expectation in return ?especially as the gift came just a day after Mr. Shin's brother was designated prosecutor-general. The prosecutors will find it hard to avoid criticism that they were soft on Mr. Shin because of his relationship to their boss. Had the prosecutors detained Mr. Shin for receiving a kickback, and the independent counsel overturned that decision, would criticism have been as great?

If Mr. Shin is detained as requested by the independent counsel, that will put the prosecutor general in a tighter spot, facing the fires of criticism. The opposition parties are again demanding that he resign. Prosecutors should take it to heart that a superficial and clumsy investigation only leads to bigger problems.
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