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[Editorial] Money in envelopes

The prosecutor general has 18.9 billion won earmarked for “special activities” this year ― activities related to gathering information on crime and criminal investigations. He is not required to submit receipts with his claims on the grounds that they may reveal confidential information. As such, he may be tempted to spend the money for other purposes.

Given that much of the prosecutorial work must be kept confidential, the prosecutor-general may need a certain amount of money, if not as much as 18.9 billion won, that he can spend on things that are not specifically disclosed. That is understandable. Moreover, other heads of government agencies have similar funds, though the amounts may be smaller.

But he would subject himself to public censure if he used part of the taxpayers’ money for personal gifts to prosecutors, not as a means of assisting them in their criminal investigations. That is what Prosecutor-General Kim Joon-gyu did when he delivered envelopes, each containing 2 million won to 3 million won, to 45 prosecutors participating in a seminar last week. The total amount neared 100 million won ― not a small sum.

At the seminar, the participants were supposed to debate the future of the prosecutors’ office. But the seminar may have focused on promoting solidarity among prosecutors in the face of an outside attempt to rein them in. It followed a proposal by a special parliamentary committee to reform the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

On March 10, the committee proposed to disband the Central Investigation Department empowered to look into politically sensitive cases, establish an outside investigation office in its place and allow the National Police Agency to conduct criminal investigations on its own. Prosecutors opposed the proposal. But their trustworthiness must have been damaged by the inappropriate cash gifts they received.
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