[EDITORIALS]Keep cleaning houseThe prosecutor general Kim Kak-young resigned Sunday, just four months into his term. The next prosecutor general will be the fourth in less than two years, since the resignation of Park Soon-yong in May 2001. The top prosecutor’s job carries a term of two years to ensure his independence, but we know that hasn’t worked.
That Mr. Kim’s term was short-lived is hardly surprising. He went through trouble early in the job because of his past record. The recent decision to shelve an investigation of Hyundai Merchant Marine’s alleged cash transfer to North Korea called into question the prosecution’s credibility even within the organization. A revolt by rank-and-file prosecutors and a public expression of distrust by President Roh Moo-hyun on Sunday were final knockout blows.
But there are lingering problems in the way Mr. Kim stepped down. Officials in the new administration have stressed the importance of ensuring the prosecutor general’s term. But the president’s distrust of the top prosecutor appeared simply overwhelming. Then it would have been more appropriate for Mr. Roh to let the prosecutor general know of his thoughts, especially as the organization faces inevitable reform. To have done it on live television and to a group of junior prosecutors, and by publicly disclosing his discontent, was enough to give the impression that Mr. Roh was simply bullying the man to resign. The methodology was certainly debatable.
The short life span of a prosecutor general is a reflection of how much damage the prosecution’s integrity has sustained. Much of that damage has been the office’s own doing, and the organization deserves great blame. There are others outside of the organization who may have been responsible for at least part of the problems, but that does not remove the prosecution from its own responsibilities.
The prosecution awaits massive personnel changes. Entire teams that took part in cover-ups, distortion cases and subjective work in politically charged cases that eventually brought in independent counsels ought to be canned. Politically motivated prosecutors that cling to powerful people must also be forced to resign.