Bitter aftertasteLee In-gyu, chief of the central investigation department of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office who headed the influence-peddling investigation involving tycoon Park Yeon-cha, recently stepped down. With his resignation, the history of Korea’s prosecution is tarnished once again.
Following the resignation of Lim Chae-jin, who headed the prosecution at the time of the probe, all leaders of the investigation have effectively now stepped down - essentially an admission by prosecutors that their investigation was inappropriate.
The Democratic Party praised the resignations, saying that it is a natural step for those who, some say, drove former President Roh Moo-hyun to his suicide with a politically motivated investigation. The party also is pressuring Hong Man-pyo, a senior prosecutor of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, to step down as well because he had leaked the progress of the probe to the media.
It is undeniable that the newly appointed prosecutor-general Chun Sung-gwan will have less to worry about at his confirmation hearing on Monday now that Lee has decided to step down. The Democrats initially demanded that 26 witnesses testify at the hearing, but reduced the list to six after Lee’s resignation. Lee, Hong and Lim were also removed from the witness list.
The people have closely followed the investigation involving the family of former president Roh as well as former and current powerful figures of the political arena, the courts, the prosecution, police, the Blue House and the National Tax Service.
And yet, nothing solid has been uncovered.
In fact, only those who were in charge of the investigation have stepped down.
The entire situation leaves a bitter aftertaste. Prosecutors probably would not have spearheaded the investigation if they had known that this would be the outcome.
Although the situation is complex, the dissolution of the central investigation unit is not the solution.
As always, execution is more important than the system itself. The Korean society is still not completely transparent, and the central investigation unit is an organization that can play a critical role in upholding justice.
To this end, the prosecution must be seen as an organization that is incorrigible, one that cannot be shaken and influenced by politics. It might be somewhat ironic, but the farewell speech Lim gave when he left the prosecutor-general position contained the answer. He called for “righteous prosecution - not strong prosecution - principles and the path of justice, temperance in exercising the prosecution’s rights and investigations respecting human rights.”
Prosecutors can overcome the dishonor of the recent investigation and regain the people’s love and trust by taking Lim’s advice to heart.