Prosecutors serve the people

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Prosecutors serve the people

The pressure is growing on the prosecution to remake itself in the aftermath of the so-called corporate sponsorship scandal. Calls for a complete overhaul to weed out corruption have increased in volume and quantity. The president ordered the creation of a special task force to oversee the job, but no government has been completely successful at reorganizing the prosecution. Still, we hope this time the institution will truly change.

The task force won’t get the job done led by a couple of cabinet members and presidential aides. Scholars and legal experts should be rallied to help fix the problems that have drawn criticism in the past. The reforms should include not only organizational changes, but also a re-examination of the prosecution’s mission, including its monopoly on pursuing criminal offenders and its exclusive judicial powers.

The task force can also work with the National Assembly’s judicial reform special committee to revamp the judicial system and use the momentum to improve public legal services.

The prosecution must seek reform in three major areas. Firstly, there must be a brake mechanism to check its authority. The corrupt chain between prosecutors and business leaders is fed by the concentration of power in a single body, but power in a democratic system must be balanced with constraints. Checks could come in the form of a corruption inquest team, a standing special prosecutor force, controls on investigative rights or an internal affairs team.

Secondly, the prosecution must be completely politically neutral. The prosecution has often been chastised for being weak against “living” power and strong against the “dead.” Yet its attitude toward the public it is supposed to serve has been most outrageous. We need to free the prosecution from government power and bring it closer to the public.

Thirdly, the clique culture at prosecutors’ offices must end. Prosecutors have been grouped based on school, birthplace and recruitment year. Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu had to order records of birthplaces and high schools be erased from the prosecution’s personnel files. The recent exposure of a decade-old legacy of bribery in a regional prosecutors’ office is a by-product of this kind of clandestine culture.

The government’s task force on prosecution reform must present a systematic solution to all these problems. The ruling and opposition parties must proceed with a special inquest into corporate sponsorship of prosecutors, as a civilian investigation will likely exert a limited influence. The prosecution may not like it, but it has to bite the bullet. Meanwhile, we hope the ongoing investigation will produce crucial findings and offer guidelines for reform.
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