Split in the prosecution

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Split in the prosecution

The prosecution has been struck with a severe internal division. After the head of a special investigation team that arrested National Intelligence Service agents allegedly engaged in an online smear campaign against opposition candidates during last year’s presidential election campaign was abruptly dismissed from his job because he didn’t report the arrests to his superior, Cho Young-kon, the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, both top prosecutors are awaiting an internal investigation by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

Acting Prosecutor-General Kil Tae-ki yesterday ordered a thorough probe into the alarming divide between high-ranking prosecutors, underscoring the need to get to the bottom of the case and hold anyone who violated the rules accountable. We welcome the chief prosecutor’s decision.

In the National Assembly’s annual audit of the prosecution on Monday, Yun Seok-yeol, head of the special investigation team, said it was difficult to bring the NIS agents to justice under his boss, Cho. Responding to that, Cho said he had never expected Yun to ignore regulations about how to arrest agents of the NIS. In such circumstances, how can ordinary people believe in the credibility of the prosecution?

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office must clear all suspicions surrounding this internal rift. If an internal probe fails to disclose what really went wrong in the chain of command, the prosecution’s investigation of the NIS’s political intervention will most likely end up as political football. Yun obviously made a mistake by ignoring guidelines on how to arrest NIS agents, including an obligation to report such arrests to his superiors.

Yun said, “I decided to take the blame for pushing ahead with the arrests without reporting to my boss.”

Although he hinted at the possibility of “external pressures” on him and his team, he didn’t present any concrete evidence. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office must find out whether Yun ignored the chain of command purely out of heroism or whether there really was external pressure on him.

A division in the prosecution is not new. We saw them in the resignation of Prosecutor-General Han Sang-dae due to sharp conflicts between prosecutors handling drugs and public security. The scars have not been healed. If the prosecution is divided according to regional, academic and/or specialty lines, that’s a grave problem. The government must start a reform drive for the prosecution as President Park Geun-hye pledged during the campaign.
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