Committee seeks next top prosecutor

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Committee seeks next top prosecutor

The Ministry of Justice has completed the formation of a nine-member panel to recommend candidates for the country’s top prosecutor in an effort to salvage the troubled prosecution after humiliating graft and sex scandals.

The ministry will begin procedures to discuss the selection from today and will recommend three candidates to the justice minister. The minister will then nominate one of the three to President Lee Myung-bak.

Although it is President Lee who officially selects the prosecutor general, he is expected to consult with President-elect Park Geun-hye before making a final decision, officials on the committee said.

“We can surely say it is Park who actually appoints the new prosecutor general,” an official on the recommendation committee told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“As the new administration begins on Feb. 25, President Lee will nominate the new general no later than Park’s inauguration, but he will reflect Park’s opinion.

“President Lee decided to appoint a new prosecutor general in light of filling the longtime vacancy and responding to public demands for prosecutorial reform before he steps down.”

Park Sun-kyu, a spokesman of the president-elect, denied some media reports that Lee and Park had negotiated the appointment already.

The spokesman added that even if that did occur, it is technically not illegal because the new general will take office after Park is inaugurated in late February.

“The committee members are just carrying out legislative procedures for the recommendation, which will take about two months,” he said.

“So under the law, it is no problem [if the incoming president engages in the nomination process].”

Former top prosecutor general Han Sang-dae bitterly resigned after a rebellion by his senior prosecutors, who resisted his attempt to disband an elite investigating body and also thought he let corruption cases against the president’s family and big businessmen slide.

Two cases of prosecutors being accused of accepting money or sexual favors to go easy on people they were investigating also pushed Han to step down.

The prosecution is also paying special attention to the incoming president’s pledges regarding prosecutorial reform, including disbanding the powerful Central Investigative Unit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ office.

The unit has handled corruption cases involving high-profile politicians and families and relatives of former presidents, but the public decried it as going too easy on the privileged class.

Park promised during her campaign to shut down the unit and form a special organization instead, separate from the prosecution.

But the prosecution says that kind of separate organization could also be influenced by politics and could threaten the existence of the prosecution.

Cutting the number of senior prosecutors is also one of Park’s plans. She wants to weaken the prosecution’s exclusive right to indict an offender and launch a prosecution-civic committee to monitor the prosecutors’ abuse of the right. Prosecutors agreed to the two proposals in principle, but they asked for gradual implementation.

When it comes to the power struggle between police and the prosecution over which one should start an investigation, Park promised to divide the rights evenly. However, prosecutors say it’s not right to revise a newly amended law regarding jurisdiction from 2011.

By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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