Prosecutors questioned in bribe case

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Prosecutors questioned in bribe case

Two senior prosecutors implicated in a major bribery scandal were summoned for questioning for the first time yesterday.

Park Ki-joon and Han Seung-cheol, who allegedly took bribes from a Busan construction company owner named Jeong, were interrogated at the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office. According to the special investigating committee formed in the aftermath of the scandal, Park and Han were put in separate rooms and questioned by a senior prosecutor and a junior prosecutor.

In a background briefing to reporters, a member of the committee said both men have already been determined to have accepted bribes, and yesterday’s interrogations focused on whether they were in return for specific favors. Neither man has been charged with a crime as yet.

Park has already submitted his resignation as the chief of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office. Han, once a chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, has been exiled to a nonprosecutorial position at the Legal Research and Training Institute, which trains individuals who have passed their bar exam.

On April 20, the MBC investigative program “PD Diary” aired an episode detailing Jeong’s claims to have bribed dozens of prosecutors over the past two decades, using cash, gifts, meals and sex worker services. Jeong said he did so hoping prosecutors would offer their help if he got into legal trouble. Park and Han were identified in the program.

After Jeong was arrested on fraud charges, he blew the whistle on active and retired prosecutors because he felt “betrayed” by the ones he had bribed. Jeong was sentenced to two years earlier this month.

Bribery suspicions involving prosecutors aren’t new, but the latest one has sent enough shockwaves through the justice system that President Lee Myung-bak has called for sweeping reforms.

Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu last week expressed qualms about the government’s plan to create a task force assigned to oversee reforms.

A committee official said investigators will find out by today whether the government will appoint special prosecutors to carry out further probes, but the goal of the committee was to “find out as much as we can” before that.


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

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