Debacle at the prosecutionThe prosecution’s abysmal fall continues. Following an all-out war between the prosecutor general and the head of the central investigation unit touched off by two cases of allegedly corrupt prosecutors, senior prosecutors urged their superior, Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae, to step down to take responsibility for the entire crisis. Han has announced his intention to resign today. We are dumbfounded at such an alarming crisis unfolding in the nation’s top law enforcement agency.
The internal war got particularly heavy after the prosecution’s internal inspection headquarters launched a probe of Choi Jae-kyung, head of the pivotal central investigation unit, because he allegedly gave advice to senior prosecutor Kim Gwang-jun on how to respond to media enquiries about his arrest on bribery charges. After that, it became a war between Han and Choi’s loyalists among prosecutors. Choi confronted the prosecutor general. Senior prosecutors went to Han’s office to demand his honorable resignation. After refusing their demand, Han said he will tender his resignation after issuing a reform plan for the prosecution and a public apology. That all happens today.
The reason for the amazing discord inside the prosecution can be found in Han’s lack of credibility as prosecutor general or in lax organizational discipline. Either way, from the perspective of the common man, none of this should have happened. No citizen can call Korea a law-abiding country if top prosecutors engage in a power struggle like the one we’ve just seen play out.
The root cause of the despicable fight is division over the fate of the central investigation unit. Han has tried to abolish the powerful team in the name of reform. The team has resisted, and driven him from office.
As Ahn Dae-hee, former head of the central investigation unit and current chairman of the Saenuri Party’s political reform committee, pointed out, the prosecutor general’s reform attempts can hardly draw praise from prosecutors or citizens as long as “it is only busy coming up with reform plans without a strict soul searching.” Prosecution reform must begin with the fundamental issues of how to strike a balance between its investigative and prosecutorial rights, how to revamp its organization and role and, above all, how to get political independence.
The prosecution is responsible for protecting justice in our society. If it neglects that prime mission, its raison d’etre is doubted. The prosecution must be born anew.