Appoint a special prosecutorA charge has been made with the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission against a prosecutor for fabricating a state document to stop Kim Hak-eui, who briefly served as vice justice minister under former President Park Geun-hye, from leaving the country. The prosecutor filed for an exit ban on Kim in March 2019 — shortly before Kim was planning to leave the country — with documents on a case that cleared his name long ago. The document had a case serial number that did not exist.
Fabricating a state document is a serious crime. It is graver if the crime was committed by a prosecutor whose role is to punish illegalities. A ban on country exit is a major restriction of civil rights. Therefore, the ban must follow strict procedures for investigative and other public purposes. It is a serious violation of civilian rights if a prosecutor cooked up documents to prohibit someone from leaving the country without legal grounds.
Why the prosecutor went as far as breaking the law to stop Kim from leaving the country must be investigated. According to the complainant, Lee Seong-yun — current head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and the chief of the anti-corruption division at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office at the time — asked the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office to cooperate in fabricating the case serial number. The request came after President Moon Jae-in ordered a reinvestigation of the sexual bribery scandal involving Kim when he was a vice justice minister. The Blue House, therefore, could have been involved in the exit ban order applied to Kim.
Although Kim was found guilty after the reinvestigation, any illegal action on him cannot be justified. No one is above the law. Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl must appoint a neutral figure to look into the matter. A special prosecutor can independently investigate internal affairs involving prosecutors. The appointment of a special prosecutor to probe into problems with prosecutors was made by a prosecutor general. But Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae has made mandatory an endorsement from the justice minister before the top prosecutor appoints a special prosecutor. If Choo refuses to cooperate in the reinvestigation, she could draw a strong backlash for trying to cover up any misdoings by inner circle.