Prosecutor chief is officially out

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Prosecutor chief is officially out

President Park Geun-hye accepted the resignation of Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook after the justice minister asked for permission to fill the vacancy and end the paralysis in the prosecution.

Chae, 54, accused of fathering an out-of-wedlock child, will attend a resignation ceremony at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in southern Seoul today at 11 a.m., ending his six-month leadership in office.

He submitted his resignation on Sept. 13, but the president had not accepted it, calling for the truth about the allegations that he has an 11-year-old son from an extramarital affair with a restaurant owner.

The Ministry of Justice has launched an internal probe into his private life. Chae has rejected all the allegations, offered to take a paternity test and sued the newspaper that publicized the allegations.

On Friday, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an recommended that President Park accept the resignation of the country’s chief prosecutor.

The ministry released what it called evidence of a sexual encounter at a news briefing that day. According to the ministry, Chae had frequently visited the woman’s restaurant in Busan, which all parties involved agree is true, and went with his staff to her newer restaurant in Seoul. In 2010, the ministry said, the woman visited his office when he was the chief of a district prosecutors’ office, identified herself as his wife, and told staff members there, “This is not a matter he can escape from.”

The woman also allegedly left her house in the early hours of the morning on Sept. 6, just hours before the Chosun Ilbo published its first report on the alleged affair between Chae and the woman and the son they allegedly had together.

But the ministry has not produced a smoking gun to prove his paternity. Laws forbid the ministry from forcing the alleged son to take a DNA test, although Chae has said he is willing to do so.

Chae has not said anything about the ministry’s interim report. He is expected to speak about the matter today at his going-away party.

More evidence to either support or refute the paternity charges may come out of the suit that Chae filed against the Chosun Ilbo, demanding that its report be retracted. The case is scheduled to be heard at 1 p.m. on Oct 16 at the Seoul Central District Court.

The law says the court must deliver a verdict on suits of this kind within three months of their filing.

According to the Justice Ministry, the chief prosecutor’s job will be filled temporarily by Kil Tae-ki, a senior prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

The process of finding a new agency head may take two months. First, the Justice Ministry will form a nomination committee of nine officials, six from the judiciary and the bar, and three from other sectors.

The committee will appoint at least three nominees, and the justice minister will select from among them. If the president approves the finalist, he or she will face questioning by the National Assembly and then will be sworn in.

BY KIM HEE-JIN [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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