True war on crime has not yet begun

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True war on crime has not yet begun

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I recently saw the Korean movie “War on Crime,” which opened last week and is subtitled “The Heyday of the Bad Guys.” It got me thinking about corruption in this country and the work of our prosecutors.

The best thing about the film is the performances. The actors are as alive as freshly caught fish and are completely immersed in their characters. Gwak Do-won, who plays the main prosecutor, gives a particularly outstanding performance. It was a supporting role, but he stole the show as a stubborn prosecutor who deals with organized crime syndicates. In a scene where he interrogates a suspect, he shouts, “I am not interested in whether you are actually a gang member or not. If I say you’re a member, you will be.” His character resorts to violent language, physical violence, threats and appeasement to get the testimony he needs. It was so believable because it’s not far from the truth.

It may be the fate of a prosecutor to agonize over the sense of a calling, the pressure for results and the need to conduct a high-handed investigation. I was reminded of this when I read an article by Kim Hyung-tae in the Hankyoreh. When he first started out as an assistant prosecutor, Kim was polite in his interrogations, asking the suspect if he was actually involved in a crime. But only a few days later, he was so upset and found the offenders so detestable that he almost hit them with his nameplate.

Some prosecutors may feel satisfied by having caught a few small-time crooks, but the big fish always are always at play above their heads. Our prosecutors have earned themselves a reputation for being hard on the weak but soft on the rich and powerful. Our prisons are filled with minor pilferers, but the big thieves swagger in broad daylight.

As the end of the Lee Myung-bak administration approaches, corruption allegations against the rich and powerful abound, but prosecutors are not tackling the cases. The president’s brother claims that he kept 700 million won ($625,000) in cash in his closet and deposited it into his secretary’s account bit by bit for office expenses. Do prosecutors buy this claim? They have not yet set a date to summon him. Prosecutors are paid by taxpayers to catch thieves both large and small. But they are not targeting the worst offenders, either because they are incompetent or they are unwilling. There are bad guys all over the country, and the true war on crime has not yet begun.

by Bae Myung-bok

* The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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