Justice aides begin work to investigate prosecutor

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Justice aides begin work to investigate prosecutor

The Ministry of Justice said yesterday it has started collecting materials necessary to discover the truth about Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook’s personal life.

The ministry said that Inspector An Jang-geun of the ministry’s Inspection Bureau had started collecting and reviewing basic materials with his five staff members, including Yoo Il-jun, a colleague of An, two prosecutors and two administrative officers. A ministry spokesman added that the group will probably keep working during the Chuseok holiday, and the official inspection of Chae will begin as early as the first week of October.

The 54-year-old prosecution chief has been at the center of a political storm since the Chosun Ilbo reported on Sept. 6 that he had a 10-year-old son from an extramarital affair of July 2002.

On Friday, the ministry announced that it would conduct an investigation into those rumors about a secret son, and Chae tendered his resignation an hour after the announcement was made.

“I can’t manage the organization and direct high profile cases while being investigated,” Chae was quoted as having said on Friday in his resignation statement. But the Blue House said on Sunday it had decided not to accept the resignation until it knew the truth about Chae’s alleged son, leaving him, in theory, still in charge of the prosecution while his private live is put under a microscope.

The investigation will not be considered an official one until the ministry convenes its inspection committee, a body that acts as an adviser to the minister, to define the terms and scope of the investigation. While the preparatory work is being started, the official investigation will begin after the holiday.

An will submit a report to the committee, which will then advise the minister, Hwang Kyo-an, about the advisability of proceeding. The minister is not bound, however, by that advice.

Some observers question the legal basis of the investigation. According to the ministry’s internal inspection code, the subject of an internal inquest must cooperate by answering verbal and written questions and providing requested materials.

But because the ministry is an administrative office, it doesn’t have the authority to compel Chae to hand over bank records or agree to tracing his telephone records. Chae has asserted that he will not cooperate with the ministry’s inquest.

The matter could be resolved quickly with a paternity test, but once again, the ministry has no authority to compel the boy involved to provide DNA for such a test. Neither can it force other types of cooperation by him or his mother. Chae has offered to take such a test, saying it would vindicate him.

In Monday’s political summit meeting, President Park Geun-hye supported the Justice Ministry’s decision to conduct its own internal investigation.

She denied accusations by Kim Han-gill, the head of the Democratic Party, that the whole matter was started by leaks, whether true or fabricated, by her Blue House office of civil affairs in an effort to force Chae’s resignation.

“I think the Justice Minister did what he had to do because Chae didn’t try hard enough to resolve allegations about himself when the media first reported the scandal,” she said. “If such circumstances continued, the prosecution could lose the nation’s faith. As the person running the country’s top investigation agency, he should have convinced the public he was innocent instead of resigning. I think the truth must be revealed as soon as possible.

BY KWON SANG-SOO, KWON HO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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