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Prosecutor quits over revelation of contact with judge in Na case

A prosecutor who claimed she was pressured by a judge to indict a netizen that slandered the judge’s wife, resigned Friday amid a dispute over the veracity of her claim.

While the prosecution is not commenting on the reason for the resignation, opposition parties have criticized the investigative body and called for a thorough probe into the scandal.

Prosecutor Park Eun-jeong of Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office Bucheon Division announced her decision to resign on the organization’s intranet early on Friday morning.

“I would like to thank my colleagues,” she said.

Park, however, did not clarify whether she was called by Judge Kim Jae-ho, who worked at the Seoul Western District Court at that time, in 2006 and was asked to indict a blogger who posted a slew of articles criticizing Kim’s wife, Na Kyung-won, for having attended a Japanese Self-Defense Forces ceremony in 2004.

Judges are required to be neutral in all cases. If the claim is verified, Kim could be subject to a heavy penalty, legal insiders said. It could also deal a heavy blow to Na, who is now planning to run for the April 12 general election as a ruling Saenuri Party candidate, they said.

Park’s initial claim was made to a small number of prosecution insiders but was made public when “Naneun Ggomsuda,” the nation’s most downloaded political podcast, cheered Park for her “sacrifice” on its Wednesday episode.

Na’s aides have filed a complaint against one of the panelists for making a similar allegation and Park went public to save the panelist, the hosts claimed.

Kyunghyang Shinmun daily also claimed Friday that Park was phoned and asked to do a favor for Kim.

Park has continued to avoid the media. Baek Hye-ryeon, a former colleague of Park, said the media frenzy had left the whistleblower aghast.

On Friday, the largest opposition Democratic United Party urged the prosecution to launch an investigation into the scandal.

“A judge calling up a prosecutor could be regarded as pressure even though Kim may have not directed the indictment verbally. We demand the prosecution to set the record straight about the matter,” the party said in a press release.

Professor Lee Sang-don of Chung-Ang University, who is also a member of the ruling Saenuri Party’s emergency governing party, also criticized Kim.

“If it turns out to be true, the scandal could damage the credibility and righteousness of the judicial body. How could people trust the verdicts such judges make?” he said on a radio show.

Na held a press conference on Thursday evening and denied the allegations. “My husband never asked anyone a favor,” she said. But she refused to answer whether Kim had made a phone call to Park.

Prosecutor Choi Young-woon, who led the blogger indictment after Park took maternity leave in early 2006, said he had not received any order from Na. The netizen was slapped with a 7 million won fine by the Supreme Court eight months after the indictment.

Upon being asked if he was requested to indict the blogger by other people, Choi said, “I do not remember.”

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on Friday said it rejected Park’s offer to resign.

“She had not done anything wrong and there is no reason for her to step down,” a prosecution insider was quoted by saying to Money Today newspaper.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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