Prosecutor’s peers call for investigation

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Prosecutor’s peers call for investigation

Hundreds of colleagues of a young prosecutor who ended his life allegedly because of his boss’s unrelenting verbal abuse issued a statement on Tuesday demanding a transparent and thorough investigation into his death.

Kim Hong-yeong, a 33-year-old prosecutor of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office, hung himself in his home in Mok-dong, Yangcheon District, southwestern Seoul, on May 19. A suicide note was found next to his body that mentioned the stress he suffered from work.

The incident would have been seen as suicide due to work-related stress, if not for a petition filed by the prosecutor’s father to the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Blue House, asking for an investigation into the prosecutor’s supervisor.

The father alleges that the severe verbal abuse and maltreatment his son suffered at the hands of his boss are what caused him to take his own life.

“Kim’s death was initially reported as a suicide due to work stress,” said Yang Jae-gyu, a lawyer who heads the alumni group of prosecutors, lawyers and judges who trained with Kim at the Judicial Research and Training Institute. “But we suspect that Kim had other reasons for killing himself, and we ask that these reasons be clearly investigated and revealed.”

The statement, signed by 712 colleagues of Kim, added, “We also suspect that the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office may be trying to hide evidence, and we ask the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office to use everything in its power to conduct a thorough investigation, including whether Kim’s supervisor and others verbally and physically abused Kim.”

Relatives of Kim were present at the press conference hosted by the alumni group on Tuesday.

“Look at him smiling in this photo,” said Kim’s mother, showing the reporters a photo of Kim. “I can’t believe that the supervisor would swear at my son for smiling.”

Kim texted to his friends in April, “I’m tempted to commit suicide at least once a day whenever I hear my supervisor swearing at me.”

In another message he wrote, “He scolded me throughout the entire get-together dinner. I smiled while he swore at me to help myself withstand it, but then he swore at me for being too confident. I just can’t stand it anymore. I want to die.”

“It breaks my heart that my son spent months of hell before he died,” said the 58-year-old mother. “His supervisor should be discharged and punished, and the chief prosecutor of the Seoul Southern District Prosecutor’s Office, prosecutor general and the Minister of Justice should apologize for my son’s death.”

Kim’s uncle, who was also at the press conference, said, “I thought it was because of work stress, but then I read a report by the JoongAng Ilbo on May 27 and found out about his supervisor’s alleged verbal abuse.”

Meanwhile, the Supreme Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a guideline on Monday requesting prosecution officials to practice self-control when using social media.

“Be careful what you write on social media,” it said, “it can spread quickly and create unnecessary rumors. As a public official, practice self-control to ensure the integrity of the prosecution is preserved.”

BY SOHN GUK-HEE, CHOI SUN-WOOK [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]

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