The end of an era

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The end of an era

The author is the national news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.

Prosecutors in the violent crime division catch gangsters. They especially deal with criminal organizations. Of course, the idea of a gun-toting prosecutor breaking into the gangster headquarters only exists in movies. In reality, the job of a prosecutor in the violent crime section is to draw an organizational chart from the boss to the lowest members to prove that they belong to a criminal syndicate. It is only possible to bring down a gang by charging its core members for organizing a criminal group. That’s why catching gangsters became the prosecutor’s duty.

The violent crime division became an independent department after gangster groups expanded. In the past, gangsters were mere parasites, sucking blood from the locals within their boundaries. Citing a line from the movie “Friends,” which cited the old slogan of the intelligence agency, they “stayed in the shadow but pursued the light.”

However, the underground economy also grew with economic development, and so-called nationwide criminal organizations emerged. They made people anxious by engaging in violent and cruel fights. Around this time, they disguised as lawful entities such as businesses or religious group, colluded with politicians and sought to come out of the shadows.

Shim Je-ryoon, then the head of the special 1 team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, decided that gangsters should not be condoned any more. He brought experienced prosecutors together and declared a war on organized crime. As the fight intensified, the prosecutors felt the need to set up a team solely devoted to the task, and the violent crime division was established in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.

Under the leadership of Shim, the violent crime section arrested major mob bosses, including Kim Tae-chon of the Seobang Family. In the process, 10 major criminal syndicates — Seobang Family, Yangeuni Family, OB Family, Beongae Family, Chilseong Family, Yeongdo Family, Jeonju Family, Baechajang Family, Gunsan Family and Mokpo Family — have been exposed. The violent crime section prosecutors also led the investigation into the slot machine scandal a few years later, which disclosed collusion between the mob and politicians.

The violent crime section is to disappear soon as it is merging with the anti-corruption section. It could be a natural decision as local gangs have weakened, but I cannot help but be suspicion as the merge is being led by the strange justice department whose priority is weakening investigative power.

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