Standards for travel bans

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Standards for travel bans

The prosecution and police are locking horns over the police seeking a travel ban on government officials and others implicated in an investigation of a businessman suspected of providing women for sex in exchange for favors for his construction business. The best thing, however, would be an improvement of the current travel ban system rather than a turf war between the prosecution and police over the case, which involves a senior prosecutor, Kim Hak-eui, who resigned from his vice minister post at the Justice Ministry on March 21 after being implicated in the case.

The prosecution turned down the police request for a travel ban on Kim, claiming the evidence pointing to his involvement in sex parties in a holiday home hosted by a local businessman was insufficient. The police protested. It said it couldn’t understand the prosecution’s rejection because it assumed its investigation was solid enough for the motion. The police said it would re-petition for the travel ban.

The two law enforcement authorities should be ashamed of publicly bickering over a confidential issue like a travel ban that could fatally damage a person’s reputation. Kim, who maintains his innocence and promises to fully cooperate with investigations to recover his reputation, won’t likely flee overseas. The police should have concentrated on securing more evidence before pressing for a travel ban.

We also have to question the current guideline on such bans. The prosecution sought a ban on Won Sei-hoon immediately after he stepped down from his post as head of the National Intelligence Service. Won is accused by several civilian groups of ordering the spy agency to attempt to sway public opinions ahead of last year’s presidential race. But the prosecution’s reasons and evidence are as weak as those given by the police on the former vice justice minister. Businessmen and civilians have been complaining of too many travel bans. Prohibitions on leaving the country due to requests from law enforcement and tax authorities run in the thousands ever year. A recent official tally found 7,760 in 2008. The prosecution maintains it seeks travel bans depending on the gravity of the offenses and likelihood of a suspect trying to flee. But suspects and even witnesses are hit with travel bans without clear explanation.

Barring someone from leaving the country in a globalized world could seriously undermine one’s freedom. Authorities must stipulate detailed guidelines on travel ban. Civilian rights to travel overseas shouldn’t hinge on whims.

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