Digging up dirt

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Digging up dirt

The Justice Ministry’s lenient action to a senior prosecutor suspected of insider trading to amass wealth of 12.6 billion won ($10.9 million) from stock investment has raised eyebrows not only among the public but also in the judiciary community. Jin Kyung-joon, chief prosecutor of the Korea Immigration Service, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Justice Ministry, submitted resignation after the Government Public Ethic Committee discovered that he could have abused his public office rank and accessibility to private information in his purchase of shares in Nexon.

The ministry said it was not taking additional punitive action on Jin, finding that the affair does not require legal scrutiny or a prosecution probe. Jin worked at the Financial Intelligence Unit before he made the purchase in 2005 and also is close with the head of the holding company of Nexon. He now owns 0.23 percent of shares in the gaming company, making him the second-largest shareholder among ordinary citizens. Jin maintains he did not commit any illegal act.

However, he has been evasive in clearing suspicion concerning his enormous wealth, disclosed last month as part of senior government officials’ requirement. He failed to explain exactly how many shares he originally purchased, where he got the money, how much tax he had paid and what kind of legal service he provided to Nexon in return for the stock. Some already suspect Kim Jung-ju, chairman of NXC, the holding company of Nexon, might have given the shares to him for free.

Prosecutors must investigate the case thoroughly to ease public skepticism about the unfair exercise of justice by the public law enforcement office. Unethical irregularities of individual prosecutors could jeopardize the entire judiciary system. A prosecutor amassing wealth of over 12 billion won through stock investment can hardly fit the description of a clean civil office. How can prosecutors expect to earn the trust of the public when they are strict on civilians and ever-tolerant upon themselves? Instead of waiting for an order from the Justice Ministry, the prosecution should embark on a probe on its own to determine any illegality in the affair.

JoongAng Ilbo, Apr. 5, Page 30
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