NATIONAL

Senior prosecutor arrested on bribery charges

By Claire Lee
  • Published : Jul 17, 2016 - 16:31
  • Updated : Jul 17, 2016 - 21:37
South Korea’s senior prosecutor was placed under arrest Sunday on charges of taking bribes from Nexon -- a leading online game maker here -- and spending the funds on stock investments.

It is the first time that an incumbent top prosecutor has been placed behind bars since 1948 when South Korea’s prosecution system was established.

Jin Kyung-joon, the 49-year-old prosecutor, is accused of taking 425 million won ($374,000) from the online game maker Nexon Co. in 2005. He eventually used the funds to make some 12 billion won in profits through stock transactions as of last year. He is also accused of receiving a vehicle worth 30 million won -- a Genesis by Hyundai Motors – from Nexon under the name of his sister’s husband in 2008.

Jin is also facing a separate corruption charge for a case in which he allegedly intentionally closed an internal investigation of tax evasion by the owners of the Hanjin Group, without making any charges against them, in 2010.
Jin Kyung-joon appears for questioning at the prosecutors’ office on Thursday. Yonhap
In return for Jin’s “favor,” Korean Air, which is owned by the Hanjin Group, is accused of signing massive business deals with Jin’s brother-in-law’s cleaning firm since 2010. The deals were worth 13 billion won, according to the prosecution.

Following Jin’s arrest on Sunday, Justice Minister Kim Hyun-woong offered a public apology.

“I feel both embarrassed and terrible that a senior prosecutor, whose job requires integrity and exemplary behavior, has committed such an unimaginable corruption crime,” he said. “I will make sure the ongoing independent counsel probe into the case reveals the truth on all of the allegations, and ensure those responsible face justice.”

Opposition party members belonging to the parliamentary judiciary committee have demanded Kim resign to take responsibility for the unprecedented scandal involving the incumbent top prosecutor.

Jin, who passed his bar exam in 1988 and his civil service examination in 1989, started his career as a prosecutor at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul in 1995. He holds a Ph.D. and law bachelor’s degree from Seoul National University and also a master’s degree in law from Harvard University in the U.S. He briefly worked as a licensed attorney in New York from 1999-2002.

In 2012, he received an award from the U.S. Department of Homeland and Security, for his collaboration with the DHS, especially the successful cases of recovery of the proceeds of crime. One of the mentioned achievements for the award included a case in which Jin and the DHS tracked down a criminal who made some 100 billion won in profits through fraud in Korea and used the funds to purchase real-estate assets in the U.S. The funds were reportedly recovered by the DHS and Jin at the time.

The corruption allegations against Jin were made earlier this year after he reported a significant increase in his personal assets and wealth in 2015.

All lawmakers and high-ranking government officials are required to share their personal wealth and assets every year. Following the allegations he offered to resign from his post in April, but the Justice Ministry did not accept his resignation.

By Claire Lee (dyc@heraldcorp.com)