Unfit for the jobProsecutor general nominee Kim Oh-soo had some problems with the high level of ethics required of the top prosecutor, as clearly seen in Wednesday’s confirmation hearing in the National Assembly. The critical lack of balance he demonstrated toward political opponents while serving as a senior prosecutor and vice justice minister from June 2018 to April 2020 raises serious questions about his appropriateness as a guardian of justice.
First of all, legal circles’ trust in the nominee is alarmingly low as suggested by his lowest ranking among four candidates recommended by a committee to Justice Minister Park Beom-kye last month. And yet, the justice minister proposed to President Moon Jae-in that he nominate Kim and the president accepted the lawmaker-turned-minister’s advice on May 3.
Kim is one of the most avid pro-government figures. He was called to serve as chiefs of the Anti-Corruption & Civil Rights Commission, the Financial Supervisory Service and the Fair Trade Commission, as well as a member of the Board of Audit and Inspection. As a result, the opposition People Power Party (PPP) finds him unfit for becoming prosecutor general, who must uphold the political independence and neutrality of the top law enforcement agency.
A bigger problem lies with his sense of morality. Shortly after his nomination as prosecutor general, he provoked controversy over excessively high legal fees he received as a lawyer after retiring as vice justice minister last year. That’s not all. Kim raked in 200 million won ($179,000) in commissions from a law firm after bringing in 22 cases. Five of the cases came from defendants in the massive Lime and Optimus Asset Management Funds scandal, which caused colossal losses of 2 trillion won for investors.
When the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office investigated the Lime Fund scam in February 2020, Kim worked as vice justice minister and received reports from prosecutors delving into the case. Kim’s acceptance of the Lime case just five months after his retirement in April 2020 could violate the law. Kim claimed he had not defended the fund operators so far. That was not very convincing.
The PPP also attacked Kim for getting involved in helping dismantle the joint securities crimes investigation team in the Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office when Choo Mi-ae was his immediate boss in the Ministry of Justice. Kim is also suspected of getting involved in issuing an illegitimate travel ban on former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui for no reason in 2019 when he served as vice justice minister.
If Kim, a de facto suspect, is appointed prosecutor general, could he investigate and indict a number of suspects in other cases involving the Blue House and government? We hope Moon thinks again before appointing him as our top prosecutor.