Prosecutor in Busan bribery scandal resigns

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Prosecutor in Busan bribery scandal resigns

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Park Ki-joon, the head of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, submitted his resignation yesterday in the midst of a bribery scandal that has shaken the justice system.

As that news broke, his chief accuser reportedly made an unsuccessful suicide attempt.

Park, 51, is one of 57 retired and active prosecutors accused of receiving bribes from a Busan-based businessman over more than two decades. The businessman, a builder surnamed Jeong, claimed that he sought prosecutors’ favors with cash, gifts, meals and even sex worker services.

The scandal was broken by MBC on Tuesday, when the current-affairs program “PD Diary” aired a feature that named Park and Han Seung-cheol, chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, as two of the prosecutors whom Jeong paid off.

Park has denied the allegations, but in his statement said he was leaving his post “to take all responsibility regarding this [bribery] issue.”

The Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office has recruited a team of outside experts to look into the charges, and Park’s statement said, “I hope the investigation committee will uncover all the facts.”

The Justice Ministry said yesterday that it was too early to say whether Park’s resignation would be accepted, and an official at the Busan office said he would continue to come to work until it is. “The investigation will be carried out to the end,” the ministry official said.

Park had been in prosecution for 25 years, and was the director of the crime prevention policy department at the Ministry of Justice in 2008. He has denied a connection with Jeong and said he couldn’t recall any telephone exchanges with him, although PD Diary played a recorded phone conversation in which Park was heard telling Jeong, “We’re like brothers.”

As Park’s professional fate pends, Jeong, who is under arrest for fraud and violating the legal representation law but had been allowed to stay home and travel for medical treatment, yesterday gave the saga a new twist. Minutes before a 3 p.m. court hearing over whether to lift the suspension of his arrest, which had been granted on the grounds of his poor health, he allegedly swallowed about 100 unidentified white pills in an apparent suicide attempt in his lawyer’s office.

Jeong was in stable condition yesterday, and only his attorney was present when the trial convened at 4 p.m. to determine whether he had violated the terms of his suspended arrest by talking to PD Diary.

With the nation’s prosecution under fire, the main opposition Democratic Party announced it would draft a bill next week calling for special prosecutors to investigate the scandal.

Lee Kang-rae, the party’s floor leader, yesterday called the bribery case “preposterous and shocking.”

“No one would trust findings of a probe by these civilians on the [Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office’s] investigation team,” Lee said. “In order to change the [ruling] Grand National Party’s wait-and-see approach, we will work with other opposition parties to hand in the bill to appoint special prosecutors if necessary.”

In addition, in light of the scandal, the Supreme Court yesterday asked all judges to refrain from going to bars or golf courses until the end of June.

The court said the judges should exercise extra discipline as public servants during the nationwide mourning over the sinking of the Cheonan warship and ahead of the local elections on June 2.


By Yoo Jee-ho [jeeho@joongang.co.kr]

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