Justice for sale

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Justice for sale

“I paid for what the prosecutors drank, where they slept and whomever they slept with.”

This is the provocative confession that a head of a construction company offered on a TV program this week. The man, surnamed Jeong, has his company in Samcheonpo, South Gyeongsang. He told the MBC TV investigative news program “PD Diary” that he routinely handed over cash envelopes and organized and funded nights out, including escorts, for about 100 prosecutors that served in the province and the city of Busan over the last 25 years.

The news program supplemented this confession with testimony from bar hostesses, denials from prosecutors under suspicion and comments from executives who also went on the infamous outings. The story was a cornucopia of obnoxious corruption.

Jeong may not have seemed entirely credible, but his testimony on the program, backed up by circumstantial evidence and documents, was solid enough to show that he hadn’t simply cooked up a pure fiction.

He presented records of the names of the beneficiaries of his generous services, with bills for dinners, hostess bars, tips and even bribes with matching check numbers. Prosecutors’ claims that they had been framed sounded lame against this mountain of evidence.

Prosecutors who are used to being pampered surely couldn’t stop themselves from accepting Jeong’s “sponsorship.” The man, currently on trial for fraud, said he was buying “insurance” among prosecutors for a rainy day.

He said he was often rewarded with favors he did not even ask for, when tricky cases disappeared with the help of his friends in public office.

His confession suggests a deep-rooted relationship between corrupt prosecutors and businessmen. One senior prosecutor, in a phone conversation with Jeong, referred to him as an “old ally.” Pride in public ethics had clearly long since been thrown out the window.

Many have long harbored suspicions about the tradition of “sponsorship” among prosecutors. But few imagined the depth and extent of the corruption. Ganging up on Jeong won’t do the prosecution any good under the circumstances.

The Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office must investigate the affair transparently and thoroughly to determine exactly how much corruption took place.

Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu, calling the affair “embarrassing,” has pledged a complete investigation and strong action.

The prosecution must try its utmost to redeem itself.
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