[EDITORIAl] Known by the Company They Keep

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[EDITORIAl] Known by the Company They Keep

It was revealed that Park Jong-yul, head of the public security department at the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office, and Kim Hong-il, a lawmaker of the ruling Millennium Democratic Party, spent their summer holiday together on Jeju island in August. The opposition Grand National Party demanded Mr. Park's resignation and Mr. Kim's apology. The ruling party countered that the opposition is engaged in a political attack on the privacy of its lawmaker.

The two admitted that they had spent a holiday together. Mr. Park said he rearranged his schedule and joined Mr. Kim at Jeju. But Mr. Kim said the two went on their trips separately and happened to run into each other. They both denied any wrongdoing and complained about an invasion of their privacy. We agree that private holidays of public figures and their families should usually be off-limits to reporters.

But in this case, Mr. Kim has been accused of involvement in a financial scandal, and the prosecutor's office is the investigating body. Public distrust of prosecutors is at a peak, and maintaining the prosecution's political neutrality and independence is an urgent issue. The people have long-standing doubts about connections between politicians and prosecutors, and prosecutors have been involved in a string of disgraceful activities. Senior prosecutors who led the investigation on the financial scandal surrounding Lee Yong-ho have been punished. The investigation of a bribery scandal involving Kim Hyung-yoon, a National Intelligence Service executive, were delayed. A deputy assistant attorney was humiliated after records proving his connection to a start-up company's stock price manipulation was made public. Mr. Park and Mr. Kim's vacation has fueled the people's distrust.

An organized crime figure also vacationed with Mr. Kim in Jeju, so the presence of the head of the prosecution's public security department is a problem. His office investigates election-related crimes as well, so cozy relations with an influential politician has at least the appearance of impropriety. Despite the Ministry of Justice's plan to reform the prosecutors office, we realize again that the success of a system depends on the integrity of the people in the system.
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