[EDITORIALS]Bullying the prosecutionThe outgoing prosecutor-general, Kim Jong-bin, left office yesterday, departing from his short-lived term after about six months. Making a retirement speech, Mr. Kim explained why he decided to resign: “The moment the right to direct investigations was exercised [by the justice minister], the dream of political neutrality, which the prosecution has long been working toward, was destroyed.” Then, Mr. Kim stressed, “Prosecutors’ political neutrality and the right to independent investigation must not be damaged in any situation.”
As Mr. Kim pointed out, people do not want the prosecution succumbing to external pressure or the intervention into an investigation by politicians. An investigation must be conducted fairly, following only the rule of law and investigator’s conscience, for people to have fair trials. To this end, Mr. Kim’s resignation alerted both prosecutors and the public to how important it is to guarantee prosecutors’ political neutrality, and how easily it can be intruded upon.
President Roh Moo-hyun reportedly called the resignation an “act to deny the civilian control by the president, elected by the people and by the minister, appointed by that president” and said such acts could never be tolerated. Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan also said, “Prosecutors must reflect the philosophy of the president, and there has to be democratic control by the justice minister over the prosecution.” This is nothing but an intervention aimed at prosecutors, under the name of “democracy.” The government’s logic is, “If I intervene in the prosecution, it’s okay, because it’s democratic.” Deciding whether to detain a person or not is a right that belongs solely to the prosecution. When a justice minister makes an effort to protect a specific person, it’s simple interference. Then does this government deserve to criticize past administrations for turning the prosecutors into the handmaidens of the powerful?
The ruling party is threatening and pressuring prosecutors, which is also wrong. The party is trying to forcibly suppress the prosecution, by mentioning the launch of the Office to Investigate Civil Service Corruption and the issue of coordinating investigation rights between the prosecutors and the police. The launch of the Office to Investigate Civil Service Corruption has so far been blocked by the opposition party, but now the ruling party is again promoting it in the name of reform, which smacks of revenge. The prosecutor-general’s responsibility is to guard the independence and political neutrality of prosecutors. It can’t change with a personnel change.