[EDITORIALS]General Shin: Sort of guiltyThe military prosecutors demanded a five-year prison term for Shin Il-sun, a four-star general arrested on charges of embezzlement, but the military court released him after sentencing him to pay a 20-million-won ($17,000) fine and damages of 107 million won.
It is not known whether either Mr. Shin or the military prosecutors will appeal the case, but the matter that aroused so much attention in and out of the military has fizzled to a conclusion. The court explained as the reason for its verdict that General Shin’s honor and prestige had already been ruined by the legal case, and that he did not seem aware of the unlawfulness of his misappropriations when he committed them.
With only such explanations, the court cannot clear up the suspicions people harbor over this case. Now, the charge on Mr. Shin is proved to be a fine of 20 million won only. The imposition of a fine is also a punishment. But it is no answer to suspicion about whether it was enough reason to abruptly summon and arrest a four-star general. From the moment the case broke out, there were constant rumors that it was meant “to purge people from a certain region” or a “scheme to change military leadership.” As a backdrop to such rumors, because the court took such weak action, people started to suspect that the military prosecutors began their investigation with hidden intentions. If they did, the court will be criticized for damaging the honor and pride of Mr. Shin and the morale of our military.
The court’s decision raises another problem. By penalizing embezzlement leniently, the decision can have an inappropriate effect on efforts to root out the common practice of misappropriating public funds in the military. Also, if it was a common practice, why should General Shin alone be arrested? The military itself makes suspicions grow bigger by making contradictory excuses.
The military leadership should know that there is speculation that the investigation was started by the Roh Moo-hyun administration and it aimed at General Shin, but was forced to make a compromise because the situation has changed. If the court tried to conclude the case by using the special status of courts-martial, it has to keep in mind that it will only damage the people’s confidence in the military.