Top prosecutor apologizes, vows to turn new leaf

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Top prosecutor apologizes, vows to turn new leaf

Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu apologized to the public for bribery scandals involving his employees and pledged to revamp the justice system by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate corruption and introducing a U.S.-style grand jury system.

In a video conference with 1,700 prosecutors across the country yesterday, Kim said the public was deeply disappointed at the scandals and reform was needed to restore public confidence.

“From now on, prosecutors will have to dump wrongful, outdated mind-sets and practices to undergo an extreme makeover in the organization,” Kim said. “Anyone who fails to follow these changes won’t be able to keep their jobs here.”

Kim’s apology was made two days after a special investigating committee concluded that some of the allegations raised by a construction company owner surnamed Jeong were true. Jeong disclosed to a local television network in April that he offered favors, ranging from drinks, meals and even prostitute services, to prosecutors in Busan and the Gyeongsang provinces for the last 25 years to get out of legal jams. The probe concluded that several senior prosecutors were bribed.

Under the reform measures proposed by the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, crimes by justice department officials will be investigated by a special prosecutor recommended by a chief inspector at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office. The chief inspector position will be filled by a non-prosecutor in effort to prevent possible cover-ups. The special prosecutor will operate independently and will not report to the prosecutor general, except to inform him whether a suspect should be indicted or not.

In response to criticisms that the prosecution has become too powerful - prosecutors in Korea have the exclusive rights to indictment - the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said it will adopt a U.S.-style grand jury system. The jury system will enable civilians to review prosecutors’ investigation records and decide whether cases are strong enough to issue indictments. Until the jury indictment system is officially legislated, a civilian inspection committee consisting of nine civilians will be operated for a temporary period to determine whether the prosecutors’ decision to indict someone was appropriate or not. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said it will ask the Justice Ministry to revise laws that give prosecutors full rights to indict.

Sitting prosecutors had mixed reactions to the reforms. Some prosecutors at the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office reportedly complained they don’t understand why they have to share the power to indict just because of scandals caused by a few of their colleagues. Kim and other district prosecutor office heads will meet again on Monday to discuss details of the reform measures.

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