&#91EDITORIALS&#93A start at prosecution reform

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&#91EDITORIALS&#93A start at prosecution reform

Junior prosecutors of the Seoul District Prosecutors Office came out with proposals to reform the service Saturday after a marathon meeting that lasted 10 hours. The wide-ranging suggestions were intended to restore the prosecution’s integrity, which has been tarnished by its mishandling of a string of cases. The proposals are meaningful in that they come from the bottom up in an organization that is famous for operating on a strict chain of command; the action itself is unprecedented. Cynicism would have it that the actions are provoked by pressure closing in from outside, including the incoming government. But whatever hidden motives there may be, it is meaningful that the juniors, who are less politically motivated than their seniors, express their desire for reform and seek ways to strengthen the office’s independence.
Some of the ideas proposed for improving personnel management, ensuring political independence and restoring the public’s trust are quite dramatic. Allowing junior prosecutors to participate in the nomination for the prosecutor general, giving the top prosecutor the power to appoint prosecutors, stripping the justice minister of control over investigations and introducing multilevel personnel evaluations are worth considering, although they will hardly be welcome universally. It is a sign of progressive thinking on the junior prosecutors’ part that they accepted the idea of special prosecutors when the public demands it for politically sensitive cases.
Junior prosecutors at other offices around the country are set to join in the discussions this week. The move is positive in expanding consensus in the prosecution for the need to initiate reform from the bottom up.
But the prosecutors should think about how their integrity came to be tarnished. Just as important for a new and improved prosecution is to change perceptions among individual prosecutors. They must shed their misguided pride in being part of a powerful organization and the unquestioning deference to those with greater power. If the reform does not accomplish such changes, the prosecutors will be criticized for trying to hang on to power.
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