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[Newsmaker] Kim case reveals ugly face of prosecution

Kim Kwang-jun, a senior prosecutor at Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office, was arrested Monday on suspicion of corruption in a case that is tainting the reputation of the prosecution.

The 51-year-old is accused of a long list of wrongdoings, mostly bribery and influence-peddling. Among them is that he may have received nearly 900 million won ($826,000) from Cho Hee-pal, the mastermind of Korea’s biggest-ever pyramid scheme, and Eugene Group, a mid-sized conglomerate, in exchange for favors.

Kim’s modus operandi was, according to investigators, to receive kickbacks in bank notes or have them wired to bank accounts of his acquaintances, including his female assistant, which he later transferred to his own accounts or took out, again in bank checks, to pay rent or buy stocks based on tips from company insiders. 
Kim Kwang-jun
Kim Kwang-jun

Apparently, he didn’t bother to hide his actions. Perhaps he thought he was beyond the reach of the justice system.

“Who in the officialdom would even think of taking bribes in bank checks, except prosecutors?” commented an official at the Board of Audit and Inspection.

Officials in the prosecution say they feel ashamed by Kim’s case. Prosecutor-General Han Sang-dae offered a written apology on Monday.

“As the top prosecutor, I offer my deepest apology to the people for causing big disappointment and concern,” Han said in the statement. “I hereby pledge to strengthen our internal checks and monitoring system after a thorough review.”

Senior prosecutors are to meet Thursday to discuss reform measures.

Prosecutors are arguably the most powerful group in Korea’s criminal justice system. They decide whether or not to indict a suspect, what charges to bring and what sentences to request.

Pushes to keep them in check, however, have repeatedly been bogged down by partisan wrangling and vehement protests from the prosecutors.

To justify their insistence on self-reform, the prosecution must now prove that Kim is a rare exception in their organization and that they are capable of cleaning up their own mess.

By Lee Sun-young (milaya@heraldcorp.com)
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