Revamping the hierarchy

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Revamping the hierarchy

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office has embarked on an internal probe into a petition from the parents of a young prosecutor that claims their son ended his own life because he could not bear the daily verbal abuse dished out by his boss. The top law enforcement agency took over the investigation when the case caused an enormous public uproar against workplace brutality.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said it began investigating the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office, where the 33-year-old prosecutor had worked.

It said it will fully respect the family petition when investigating the case. The top office first said the lower district division would internally investigate the matter, but only took over the case after the peers of the deceased issued a petition demanding a full-scale probe.

Kim left a suicide note before hanging himself at his home in May. In the note, he wrote about the enormous stress he suffered at work. He had reportedly texted his friends and peers saying that the senior prosecutor in his office habitually tormented and verbally abused him, often to the point of making him consider ending his life. His family filed a petition with the Blue House and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

We should first wait until the top prosecutors’ office publishes the results of its investigation, because we simply cannot jump to conclusions based entirely on information found in the suicide note.

But the rigid discipline of the senior prosecutor could have partly led to the extreme decision that this young man made. Top-down command would have dominated the working environment of the prosecution and could also have intervened in the private lives of prosecutors.

The internal probe underscores how outdated — and possibly abusive — the prosecution organization and culture may be. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office must thoroughly investigate the case and share the findings with the victim’s family and the public. It must draw up a blueprint to reform the repressive and undemocratic culture of the law enforcement organization for a better future.


JoongAng Ilbo, Jul. 4, Page 30
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