Prosecutor found responsible for junior’s suicide

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Prosecutor found responsible for junior’s suicide

More than two months after a 33-year-old prosecutor hung himself, citing mental stress as the main reason in his suicide note, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announced Wednesday after an internal probe that a senior prosecutor seemed to have triggered the suicide by verbally and physically abusing him at work.

The state prosecution said it would formally request the Ministry of Justice dismiss the 48-year-old senior prosecutor, a penalty that carries a three-year ban from opening a private law firm or assuming any public service post, as well as a 25 percent deduction from his pension.

But the prosecutor was able to escape being fired, the highest-possible penalty, which requires an impeachment by the National Assembly or a court ruling of imprisonment.

Admitting that the senior official repeatedly insulted his junior and slapped his back for showing poor work performance, Jeong Byeong-ha, head of the prosecution’s Inspection Headquarters, said the dismissal was based on their conclusion that he no longer held the dignity required for the profession.

Kim Jin-mo, head of the Seoul Nambu District Public Prosecutors’ Office in Yangcheon District, southwestern Seoul, where the case unfolded, was held responsible for failing to prevent it from happening and received a written warning authorized by the prosecutor general.

Jeong vowed to receive opinions from society on how the prosecution can build a morally “sound work environment” from now on, a prerequisite to avoiding similar cases in the future.

On May 19, a 33-year-old prosecutor who worked at a criminal department for the Seoul Nambu District Public Prosecutors’ Office hanged himself at his home in Mok-dong, central Seoul. In his single-page will, the young prosecutor complained about stress from his heavy workload.

A passage read: “I want to be happy. I want to live.”

The prosecutor, an outgoing Seoul National University graduate who reportedly enjoyed playing soccer and hanging out with his friends, did not mention any specific incident or person in his will that may have led to his decision to take his own life.

His father, however, filed a petition with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and Blue House weeks later, claiming that his son’s stress chiefly came from his own boss, who headed the criminal department at the time. The father said the senior prosecutor held “a considerable amount of responsibility” in the suicidal death case, and that he often heard from his son about how he was bullied at work.

Local media, quoting the dead prosecutor’s friends and coworkers regarding how he was mistreated, revealed vivid messages shared on the smartphone app KakaoTalk. One screen shot showed him saying: “I tried to laugh it off whenever he verbally abused me, but then he only berated me more for being confident.”

A college friend came forward with an account that the dead prosecutor seemed to have suffered the most when he submitted files to his boss and requested they be signed off for authorization. The senior prosecutor “poked” him with the plastic board containing the paper documents and hurled abusive language at him, the source said.

Heated public scrutiny led the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to finally launch an internal probe into the issue early this month, which resulted in Wednesday’s announcement to dismiss the senior prosecutor.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN, HYUN IL-HOON, SOHN GUK-HEE [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]
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