Two tales of Korean prosecutors

Disclaimer: The following are totally unauthoritative personal translation of two articles appeared in <The Kyunghyang Shinmun> on November 27, 2011, each of which reports one side of Korean prosecution right now. As a country where governing by law is the most precious value of all, the integrity of judicial system is the backbone of social stability, a glue to hold all social fabric together in an orderly and harmonizing way. However, Korean judicial system, riddled with scandals and ostensible partiality towards the rich and the powerful, has been blamed for the source of all social injustice. Two articles translated here deliver two diametrically different aspects of Korean prosecutors right now but I hope they will provide readers with some appreciation why Korean people request reforms on Korean prosecution so eagerly. All rights regarding this post stay with the authors of original articles or <The Kyunghyang Shinmun> and this post will be scrapped immediately at their requests accordingly. Original articles of this post (in Korean) will be found by links at the bottom of respective articles.

“Give me the price of Chanel bag, 5.4M KRW”

조미덥 기자 zorro@kyunghyang.com

A prosecutor sent a pressing text message to a lawyer after soliciting to her colleague

Prosecutor A (female) who received a Benz from a lawyer (former presiding judge) is reported to be under a suspicion of receiving a Chanel bag worth about 5M KRW as a present near the end of last year for soliciting her colleague prosecutor who was in charge of a case lawyer had filed to handle it favorably.

It is confirmed on 27th that prosecution, witnessing the circumstance, performed a search and seizure of the lawyer’s office in the middle of this month.

Prosecution Busan branch recently obtained a list of text messages for 3 months from September last year between prosecutor A and lawyer B.

Among them were messages like “… relayed your message (to the prosecutor in charge of your case). … would consider filing (an arrest) warrant” that hinted prosecutor A’s solicitation to arrest the person lawyer B had accused.

Prosecutor A demanded lawyer B to send 5.4M KRW as a Chanel bag price at the end of November last year. On December 5, 5.39M KRW was paid at a Gangnam Department store in Seoul with a company card of a law firm lawyer B represented. On the next day, December 6, prosecutor A made a suggestion ‘to report to police again and let them pass over the case to prosecution with an arrest opinion’.

Prosecution focuses on the possibility that prosecutor A relayed lawyer’s solicitation and prosecutor’s investigation progress back and forth and asked for the Chanel bag as a payback. Prosecution considers to accuse prosecutor A for taking a bribe for providing a favor. A prosecution official said “if a prosecutor received an unusually huge money or pricy present near a time he or she leaked an internal information or was solicited, we can prosecute him or her criminally even if the transaction took place between those who had been exchanging money or valuables purely friendly reasons.”

Prosecutor A is under investigation for receiving and using a Benz and a company credit card registered to lawyer B’s law firm for years. (Reported on November 26 in the front page of Kyunghyang Shinmun) She tendered her resignation as the investigation becomes official. Lawyer B, in a recent interrogation by prosecution, is said to explain that he lent the Benz to her for a while but does not get it back.

Lawyer B is also under suspicion to relay money and valueables worth 10M KRW from a client to two director-level prosecution officials. To clarify a series of suspicions, prosecution performed a search and seizure of the lawyer’s office in the middle of this month and secured a ledger and case records. Prosecution is planning to summon and interrogate prosecutor A in this week. Kyunghyang Shinmun tried to contact prosecutor A for comments several times but failed.

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“Prosecution does not hold the neutral ground” an incumbent female prosecutor tendered resignation

이영경 기자 samemind@kyunghyang.com

“.. became skeptical by ‘PD Journal’ investigation … trust swept away”

An incumbent prosecutor tendered resignation criticizing “prosecution does not hold the neutral and independent ground”. Prosecutor of Daegu branch Paik Hye-ryeon (44, female) tendered her resignation after posting a message to prosecution’s internal board “recent several years of prosecution does not look like just or politically neutral or independent to ordinary people” on last 21st.

On her ‘A note of resignation’, prosecutor Paik expressed “Criticisms from media, derisions from politicians, innocence rulings from the court, frosty eyes of ordinary people… all of these have become everyday life to us prosecutors. Pride and self-esteem as a prosecutor has swept away at the face of prosecution which no one sides with.”

She then continued “the most important reason why prosecution is not trusted but criticized is because prosecution is not handling big cases which national intention is focused on and delicate cases which require high level of political impartiality and independence strictly fairly from politically neutral and independent grounds.”

She lamented “the trust prosecution has accumulated collapse right away if we cannot handle just one case where national interest is focused on fairly, no matter how many criminal cases we handle fairly. I don’t know how prosecution is ridiculed by remarks like ‘political prosecution who does not know politics’ even from a representative of the ruling party.”

“To resolve current circumstances”, prosecutor Paik said, “prosecution, rather than blaming people and media or criticizing the court, should look back to see if prosecution has leaned to one side or if the criteria and judgement of prosecution have fallen behind the flow of time and become obsolete or if there has been any procedural inconsistency  or unfairness.”

She also said “there must be someone who has an opinion different from mine” and continued “rendering the prosecution into an organization where opinions like mine can come out naturally within itself will enliven the organization of prosecution.”

She then said “I have never felt the gap between the supreme prosecution and front-line prosecutors wider than now before. The gap of reality between the supreme prosecution and front-line are so wide and the lack of communication is overarching.”

Prosecutor Paik added “it should be bear in mind that an organization who degrade its ability to communicate will not be able to draw support from its own members and, eventually not knowing the change of tide, will be swept away.”

In an interview over the phone with Kyunghyang Shinmun on 27th “I became skeptical about the organization when I saw the investigation of「PD Journal」(an investigative journalism program) last year. Though many prosecutors feel the same way, I put them into words as I tender my resignation since those things are hard to speak as a prosecutor.”

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