Sins of the pastWe are shocked at what was contained in a report by an investigation team in the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on past cases handled by prosecutors and the way they acted. The report disclosed by lawyer Park Young-joon, an outside member of the investigation team, includes highly questionable actions in the re-investigation of a probe of possible corruption by former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui under the conservative Park Geun-hye administration.
Launching a crusade for prosecutorial reforms after taking power in 2017, the liberal Moon Jae-in administration promised to end past investigation practices such as leaking charges against political heavyweights to the press in advance or conducting politically motivated investigations of suspects. But the recent revelations by the lawyer show the opposite. A former senior prosecutor even lamented that he had never seen such overbearing actions by the investigation team.
The former vice justice minister’s corruption deserved heavy punishment. But the re-investigation team’s deviations from normal practices crossed the line. First of all, circumstantial evidence suggests that a member of the team, a prosecutor, leaked detailed information about Kim’s aberrant behavior, including taking bribes from a businessman and receiving entertainment at his luxurious villa, to the media even before it was verified. The team also attempted to transform the bribery case into a case of sexual violence against a female entertainer.
The liberal administration pressed ahead with a ban on leaking a suspect’s charges to the press and forcing a suspect to stand in front of prosecutors’ office to allow the media to take a picture. On Facebook, current Justice Minister Park Beom-kye attacked past prosecutors for leaking bribery charges against former President Roh Moo-hyun, which eventually led to his suicide in 2009. Former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae even refused to submit to the National Assembly the full text of the prosecution’s indictment of Moon’s aides over the Blue House’s alleged intervention in the 2018 Ulsan mayoral election citing the government’s ban on leaking such information to the outside.
The exposed text messages among members of the investigation team over the Kim Hak-eui case show how blindly they followed the very practice the government vowed to stop.
The investigation team provokes controversy over repeating the same old dodgy practices by the prosecution. The top law enforcement agency must get to the bottom of all the suspicion over their double standards. If the prosecution attempts to turn a blind eye to their behavior, another re-investigation team will have to be launched pretty soon.