Top prosecutor apologizes over coercive probes in past political cases

By Catherine Chung
  • Published : Aug 8, 2017 - 13:17
  • Updated : Aug 8, 2017 - 13:17
South Korea's top prosecutor apologized Tuesday for high-handed probes by the state prosecution under past governments that often entailed false convictions and extreme human rights abuses.

"I feel regrettable and do apologize that the prosecution did not fulfill its duty to adhere to legal procedures and protect human rights in some of the past political cases during authoritarian governments," Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il said at a press briefing.

It is the first time in the country's history that an incumbent head of the prosecution has issued an apology over its own past shortcomings. 

Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il speaks during a press briefing held in the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in southern Seoul on Aug. 8, 2017. (Yonhap)

South Korean prosecutors are blamed for having realigned themselves with military governments in the 1970s and 1980s that ordered brutal crackdowns on political opponents by accusing them of pro-communist tendencies.

The new chief prosecutor, who was appointed by President Moon Jae-in late last month, has vowed to overhaul the law enforcement by boosting transparency and independence away from local politics.

His pledge comes in step with the liberal president's policy to reform the prosecution that has long been blamed for being swayed by politics and monopoly of its investigative authority.

He mentioned two cases as examples of such mistakes, both of which have led to a retrial of the defendants who were recently acquitted of their charges.

To prevent the recurrence of such errors, Moon said he will turn the prosecution into one that keeps its political neutrality.

"I will make sure we work by the principle that we show everything over the course of the investigation in the way they are," he said. "I will also adopt a probe review panel made up of outside experts who will review the process from the investigation to indictment for cases that draw public attention."

The chief prosecutor also stressed he will work to bring a change into the investigation process from relying on reports to judging by the evidence. (Yonhap)