The winds of change

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The winds of change

The prosecution made a fresh declaration for change with its new investigation paradigm, unveiled during Tuesday’s meeting of regional prosecution office heads.

The change is seen as an attempt to end the disturbing practices of the prosecution. These practices include detaining suspects for minor charges in an effort to push forward with probes involving heavier accusations and pressuring suspects by questioning their friends and relatives.

We welcome the reforms led by Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu. We also think the goal and direction of the reform are valid.

Some observers have criticized the plan as being too idealistic, but it is undeniable that the prosecution lost the public’s trust in the aftermath of former President Roh Moo-hyun’s suicide amid its probe into him. Without reforming its investigation methods, there is no way for prosecutors to restore public trust. That’s why the reform plans include measures to prevent an unfair probe and to ban unnecessary long-term internal reviews of cases.

Prosecutors had started going way too far with investigations, focusing more on success than the truth. The case against Byeon Yang-ho, who headed the financial policy bureau of the Ministry of Finance and Economy during the Roh administration, is an example.

Byeon had been initially investigated on charges of colluding with Lone Star Funds and Korea Exchange Bank officials to facilitate the bank’s sale to an American buyout firm in 2003 at a discounted price. He was then tried for another case. The prosecution indicted him on charges of accepting bribes from Hyundai Motor in return for using his influence to pressure the company’s creditor banks to reduce the debts of the auto giant’s affiliates.

Byeon, however, was acquitted in both cases.

“We do not care about the truth. We just have to build a case and file an indictment,” Byeon quoted an investigator of the central investigation unit of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office as saying in his unfinished memoir. “They [the central investigation unit] believed that they could do anything and everything, except for turn a man into a woman.”

A thorough post-evaluation will be conducted, and the prosecutors will be responsible for what they have done as a part of the reform plan. We support the change. Until now, we have seen the promotion of prosecutors despite their involvement in reckless investigations. In order to facilitate change, each and every prosecutor must be part of the transformation.

It will be painful to change, and prosecutors may feel frustrated because probes will progress slowly. The prosecution, however, must soldier on with this change. If it fails to do so, reform within the prosecution will become nothing more than an empty word. Prosecutor General Kim has said the country’s prosecution must act as a beacon to comfort the people through its “gentlemanly investigations.” Our anticipation for such a change is high.

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