Zero tolerance for corruptionThe prosecution is getting caught up in a new corruption scandal. In the latest episode, a female prosecutor and a corporate lawyer are suspected of having kept close ties for business purposes. The wealthy lawyer reportedly gave the prosecutor luxury gifts, including an expensive car and a designer bag, in a bid to peddle influence.
It all started after the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office received a petition against the Busan-based lawyer claiming she was guilty of corruption and had formed a suspiciously close relationship with the female prosecutor.
But an official at the prosecutor’s office said the case was beyond its jurisdiction because it was a private matter between two individuals.
The case was instead referred to the lower Busan District Prosecutors’ Office in August. District prosecutors embarked on an official probe after a criminal suit was filed against the lawyer, who has the surname Kim. A taped phone conversation between the two parties in question and a Chanel bag worth 5.4 million won ($4,677) that had been given to the female prosecutor - allegedly as a bribe - were submitted as supplementary evidence this month.
Given the scant details available, it seems as though prosecutors have been sitting on the case for the last four months in order to protect one of their colleagues. But they should not think that members of their ranks can escape being questioned on whether they are carrying out their duties ethically.
Prosecutors should have acted on their duty to treat such cases with “reasonable doubt” and taken the offensive after learning that the woman in question received a Mercedes-Benz sedan from the lawyer. Their text messages are hard evidence that the prosecutor was bribed to exercise her influence on cases in which both were involved.
Prosecutors claim they only learned of the women’s relationship after the petition was filed, and the targeted party resigned soon after the petition was filed. But according to presidential decree, public servants such as state prosecutors cannot resign if they are being investigated on charges of corruption. They must await the results of the probe and any ensuing penalties. This, the prosecutors also conveniently ignored. According to the recorded text messages, the female prosecutor asked one of her colleagues who was dealing with one of the lawyer’s cases to step in and help out. The prosecution should get to the bottom of this quickly to weed out any ethical impropriety.