The people's trust

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The people's trust

Top prosecutors have decided to request that a senior prosecutor at Seoul South District Prosecutors’ Office be discharged from his office after his repeated abuse of power led to the tragic suicide in May of a junior prosecutor under his jurisdiction. They took the action after 33-year-old prosecutor Kim Hong-young was found to have sent his colleagues a text message suggestive of the senior prosecutor’s habitual use of violence and insults against him.

However, such a case in our prosecution will not be resolved by top prosecutors’ decision to strip the senior prosecutor of his job title, because it boils down to our prosecution’s overly strict top-down work culture.

An inspection team at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said after a Wednesday meeting that it will recommend that Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam discharge the senior prosecutor from his job. According to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, the senior prosecutor has repeatedly used insults nearly bordering on character assassination during the job, including an act of smacking him in the back after severely reprimanding him on drinking occasions. That is not the first time. The senior prosecutor, surnamed Kim, also used violence against his subordinates when he worked in the Ministry of Justice.

Supreme Prosecutors’ Office recommended that the prosecutor general give a warning to the chief of the South District Prosecutors’ Office, where the junior prosecutor served. Top prosecutors vowed to establish a “desirable organizational culture” after the latest case. But reforms of the sclerotic work environment cannot be achieved by censures or pledges alone, because the junior prosecutor’s suicide took place under the deep-rooted top-down system in the prosecution. The fact that no one has dared to put brakes on a constant use of violence by the senior prosecutor clearly shows how exclusive organization our prosecution has been.

It all originates from the sacred credo in our prosecutors’ offices, which says that the organization of the prosecution is a single organism starting with prosecutor general down to junior prosecutors. Though the principle disappeared in December 2003 after a revision of our Prosecution Act, local prosecutors are still dominated by the dictum.

Of course, a hierarchical command chain is needed for efficient investigations. At the same time, however, our prosecution must establish a democracy among themselves and ensure junior prosecutors’ right to raise objections, too.

The prosecution must listen to what ordinary citizens say now: “How would prosecutors deal with suspects and witnesses even when they use violence against their own juniors,” they wonder. If Prosecutor General Kim fails to innovate their outmoded work ethics, the prosecution will never be able to get trust from the people.

JoongAng Ilbo, July 28, Page 34
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