[Viewpoint]A chance to do rightOver the course of time, people change and so do organizations. So it may be a big mistake to evaluate the present based on a memory of the past. I hope you will read this column bearing that in mind. I’d like to talk about the prosecution.
In the spring of 1993 the newly inaugurated Kim Yong-sam administration was determined to conduct audits and inspections. The prosecution uncovered Donghwa Bank’s illegal accounts. Prosecutors provided a list of bribes passed to the Blue House and the Democratic Liberal Party during the Roh Tae-woo administration.
The prosecution started the investigation with a bang but ran into a deadlock because of a Democratic Liberal representative whom we will call “L.” This person was also known as the “crown prince of the financial circle.” L was suspected of receiving 2 million won ($2,154) in bribes, but checked into a hospital saying he was ill. It was revealed later that L reportedly threatened to “expose all the political funds handed over to YS, former President Kim Young-sam,” while in hospital. A few days later, he left the country for Japan.
Some time later at a drinking party, I heard a stunning story from a high-ranking officer at the prosecution. “In fact, we sent L away. Because of him, we could not proceed with the investigation any more.” Once this obstacle was cleared, the prosecution hastily concluded the investigation on the other politicians on the list. L returned to Korea in a leisurely manner in the fall of 1994 when the investigation was completely over.
“Ah, this is politics and the prosecution,” I thought, a young reporter at the time. Afterward, I became a legal news team leader and gathered many unpleasant memories of the attitude of the prosecution in their handling of political cases.
Prosecutors say, “Fighting big social evils is the raison d’etre of the prosecution.” They are right. It is important, of course, to punish thieves, robbers, swindlers and murderers. But the prosecution’s mission is to expose and remove the power-involved corruption that threatens the basic framework of society. Unfortunately, many disagree over whether our prosecution is carrying out this mission properly or not.
These days, the prosecution seems to specialize in cleaning up messes made by others.
I can hardly remember a time the prosecution recognized power-related crimes first and realized justice through an investigation. Instead, the pattern of investigation goes like this: 1) The media report suspicions, 2) The prosecution says it has no plan to investigate, 3) Bigger suspicions break out, 4) The prosecution belatedly starts its investigation and wraps up the case in haste. Ah, one thing is missing. 5) Despite the announcement of the investigation results, suspicions remain as before.
As long as the pattern goes this way, we cannot feel that criminals were punished and justice was fulfilled. A negative perception of the world only spreads widely among the people.
Both the scandal surrounding the former chief presidential secretary for national policy, Byeon Yang-kyoon, and the disgraced former art professor and curator, Shin Jeong-ah, and the bribery suspicions involving the former presidential protocol secretary, Jung Yun-jae, possess dramatic components of abuse-of-power corruption.
Is it true that the policy secretary rented a hotel-style residence costing millions of won per month just in front of the Blue House and wielded power and pressure for the sake of the female curator? Should we believe the naive or foolish explanation of the Blue House that it did not know the incidents took place? More than a few questions remain. Prosecutors, who are paid by the taxpayers, not by the president, have a duty to find out the truth.
This also goes for Jung Yun-jae, a former close aide to President Roh Moo-hyun and core member of the “386” generation at the Blue House. People have the right to know what he really did.
Some think that the prosecution’s investigation this time will also hastily cover up the cases, not reveal the truth. Others say the prosecution will quickly wrap up the cases before Chuseok (Korean Thanksgiving) by putting Byeon Yang-kyoon and Jung Yun-jae in detention. The logic is that the cases, if prolonged, will spoil President Roh’s plan to visit North Korea in early October and negatively affect the primary for the United New Democratic Party. This is plausible, but we also know this kind of talk itself is an insult to the prosecution.
So I will not believe rumors. Instead, I want to believe that the prosecution I experienced in the past that is different from that of the present.
Someone should clean up the disgraceful state of “political prosecution” in this country. This is the opportunity to do so. Let’s make the most of it.
*The writer is the senior city news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kim Chong-hyuk