Prosecutors face punishment

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Prosecutors face punishment

A special committee investigating the systematic bribery of a string of Busan prosecutors yesterday said they will ask Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu to punish some 20 attorneys who allegedly accepted cash, gifts, meals and sex-worker services from a construction company owner.

Committee officials said they will announce the results of their six-week investigation this morning at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, along with suggested disciplinary and reform measures.

The prosecutor general will hold a meeting at 3 p.m. today to decide whether to act on the committee’s recommendations.

The investigation was launched in April after an MBC current-affairs program reported that Park Ki-joon, the head of the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, and Han Seung-cheol, chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, were two of the lawyers paid off by the businessman, surnamed Jeong. Jeong blew the whistle after prosecutors he had allegedly bribed for protection failed to act when he got into legal trouble. He is now serving a two-year sentence for fraud.

Once the scandal broke, Park submitted his resignation and Han was exiled to a nonprosecutorial job. But the committee official said that, “Considering public sentiment and the drive to reform the prosecution, there’s an overriding view [in the committee that] prosecutors like Park deserve stern punishment.

“At this point, it is highly likely that the committee would ask that Park be dismissed or face a heavy punishment similar to that.”

Park’s resignation has not yet been accepted. If he is dismissed, that punishment will be the heaviest ever handed down to a head of a district prosecutors’ office. If the prosecutor general accepts the committee’s request, Park will be banned from opening his own law office for three years.

The committee said it originally intended to ask the prosecutor general to bring criminal charges against Park, but could not collect enough evidence against him to substantiate them.

The committee will ask for stern punishments against another four or five interim prosecutors, including Han, who allegedly tried to cover up the scandal by taking no action when Jeon requested an investigation into his charges.

The investigators are also considering pressing criminal charges against a prosecutor to whom Jeong alleged he offered sex-worker services. While the investigators said they have concrete evidence against the attorney, both the sex worker and the prosecutor flatly deny the allegation.

By Jeon Jin-bae, Kim Mi-ju []
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