[EDITORIALS]Prosecutors muzzledThe Justice Ministry has announced the promotion list for the nation’s prosecutors after 15 days of foot-dragging amid a spate of rumors. The announcement showed that prosecutors who had served in the past in the National Security Division were excluded from promotions. Of the eight persons promoted to senior prosecutor, none had experience in security matters.
Hwang Kyo-an, the deputy chief of the Seoul’s Central District Public Prosecutors’ Office, was among those who were not promoted. Under normal circumstances and if past practice had been followed, he would have been the first to have been promoted, but the ministry said, “Mr. Hwang’s exclusion was a reprimand because in 2002 he dropped the case against the intelligence agency after the Grand National Party first accused it of illegal wiretapping.”
But Mr. Hwang is a noted prosecutor who led the investigation last year into illegal eavesdropping, which led to the detention of two former intelligence chiefs. He also championed the case for detaining Professor Kang Jeong-koo, an outspoken advocate of North Korea. That is why political observers are saying that the real reason he was not promoted was because he is out of favor with the administration and the justice minister over that latter case.
This is not the first time that this administration has given the cold shoulder to prosecutors working in the National Security Division. Koh Young-ju, the head of Seoul’s Southern District Prosecutors’ Office, resigned from the prosecution last month with a parting shot about the administration’s bias against prosecutors from the division. Last year, Park Man, the former deputy head of the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office, also quit after being passed over twice for promotion. Mr. Park was working on the case of Song Du-yul, a Korean-German scholar accused of pro-North Korean activities.
It is a serious matter to slight prosecutors who handled security matters because the administration dislikes the cases they handled. They are directly related to national security. When prosecutors know they are risking their careers, the work of the division will grind to a halt. That is like disarming in the face of the North’s operations to undermine us. The administration, eager to abolish the National Security Law, seems to be sapping the morale of prosecutors in charge of security. The duty of the National Security Division of the prosecution is protection of free democracy. If prosectors of the division are maltreated, no one will serve there.