The state prosecution is the nation’s supreme law-enforcement agency. Its authority and right to investigate and prosecute criminals and to safeguard justice, law and social order should not be questioned under any circumstances.
Despite or because of such an important role, prosecutors often come under public fire. There have been prosecutors who exercised their authority out of political considerations or under pressure from the ruling government. Just like other types of public servants, prosecutors are sometimes implicated in corruption cases and commit other misdeeds, although they are required to have the highest level of ethical standards.
But one of the most serious problems with the prosecution is its potential abuse of power. Prosecutors should be armed with all and every legal means for bringing criminals to justice. Sadly, we witness too many cases of prosecutors exercising their authority in an excessive manner.
For instance, many Korean prosecutors still believe that a capable prosecutor should be good at taking suspects into custody. They therefore issue summons and seek seizure and arrest warrants when they feel like it. There are cases in which those measures are necessary, but Korean prosecutors tend to resort to them too easily, raising the danger of abuse of power and infringement of human rights.
In the most recent case, prosecutors investigating an alleged corruption case involving former KT CEO Lee Suk-chae raided 37 homes and offices in less than a month. They summoned about 70 KT executives and employees, almost paralyzing the nation’s 11th-largest conglomerate.
What was the result of such a massive investigation? The court rejected the arrest warrant for Lee, saying that the evidence presented by the prosecutors was not enough to detain him. Whether Lee is guilty or not of a breach of trust and embezzlement will be determined by the court. But prosecutors have little to say about the fact that they failed to secure proof to convince judges despite a probe so massive that it included 37 raids.
A case like this convinces us that prosecutors should be more discreet and prudent in exercising their rights. More important will be the role of the court. Judges should be stricter in issuing seizure and arrest warrants requested by prosecutors. Lawyers, NGOs and the press may also help with the task of reining in prosecutors.