Busy protecting its own

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Busy protecting its own

The Ministry of Justice has accepted the resignation of Kim Soo-chang, a former chief of the Jeju District Prosecutors’ Office who is under police investigation for committing a lewd act in public. He said he offered to resign because he did not want his position as chief prosecutor to hamper the police probe into his behavior. He was discharged from public office after requesting to resign. The Ministry of Justice said Kim was allowed to resign because the act he has been accused of was a minor offense. Senior officials in the ministry said his retirement from public office would also enhance the fairness and credibility of the police’s ongoing investigation.

But the ministry’s decision to allow his resignation has been hasty because it was made while a separate investigation into a high-ranking public servant continues. The ministry should have suspended Kim from office first and determined the level of punitive action in an independent review board according to the results of the police investigation. When public servants dismiss themselves from office, they are still entitled to retirement and government pension funds. They can also immediately open a private legal business. When dismissed in dishonor, however, a government employee’s post-retirement benefits are stripped.

The ministry is suspected of taking prompt action in favor of the outgoing prosecutor. It shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion that Kim committed a minor offense. Even if his public misdemeanor is a minor offense, he lied to the police about his identity and had his driver hand in a statement. His chauffeur was also indicted for swearing at the police.

All these actions are unthinkable for a chief prosecutor in charge of law and order on Jeju Island. When everything is taken into consideration, he could face more severe punishment from the ministry.

If Kim’s misdemeanor is confirmed by the police, the prosecution will lose face again. To make matters worse, Kim has been a well-known figure in the prosecution for leading an internal investigation into a bribery case involving a former senior prosecutor. Unless the ministry and the prosecutors’ office deal with Kim according to law and principles, they can hardly reject criticism that they tried to protect one of their colleagues.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 34

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