A prosecutor was indicted Wednesday for allegedly playing favors on his girlfriend’s behalf, raising concerns over the prosecution service’s integrity amid a series of recent scandals involving law enforcement officials.
The charged prosecutor, only identified by his surname Jeon, is accused of threatening a plastic surgeon to exact medical and financial favors for his girlfriend actress Lee Yoon-ji, more famously known by her stage name Amy.
Indicting an incumbent prosecutor is uncommon in Korea, although the multiple scandals embroiling prosecutors in recent years could jeopardize social trust in the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, according to a senior official.
Prosecutors said Jeon asked the surgeon, who is also only identified by his family name Choi, to perform a second surgery on Lee, free of charge. Lee had incurred side effects during an earlier procedure at Choi’s hospital.
Jeon told Choi he would help in a separate legal case if Choi cooperated, but would take legal action if the doctor did not acquiesce. Choi is being investigated by police for reportedly raping a 37-year-old woman.
Choi accepted the offer, and operated on Lee to palliate the side effects without receiving compensation. The surgeon also sent Jeon 22.5 million won ($21,000) in cash, which Jeon then forwarded to Lee.
Jeon is purported to have met Lee when he prosecuted a drug abuse case in 2012. Lee was charged with illegally administering propofol, a psychotropic substance that is used as an anesthetic in surgeries, without receiving the proper prescription. After Lee served her sentence, Jeon developed a sense of guilt for prosecuting Lee because he had been unaware of her suffering from Hepatitis C, a painful liver disease that causes nausea and vomiting.
The two later developed a romantic relationship in November 2012, according to Lee who disclosed the relationship on a cable news program on Tuesday after denying the affair in the preceding weeks.
Prosecution officials taking bribes and special favors from interest groups is not new. In 2012, a senior prosecution official took bribes amounting up to 1 billion won according to some sources, while a junior prosecutor was accused of having sexual relations with a defendant in a different court case.
Prosecutor General Kim Jin-tae vowed to prevent further scandals.
“(Jeon’s case) is an embarrassing incident. I am utterly humiliated and cannot hold my head up to the citizens of our nation. We should never forget that we serve the public and hence must never forget our duty as law enforcement officials,” he said.
By Jeong Hunny (email@example.com)