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Appointment of new top prosecutor starts exodus

June 21,2019
One of the top prosecutors in the country on Thursday said he plans to resign, which may lead to an exodus of senior prosecutors following President Moon Jae-in’s nomination of Yoon Seok-youl as the new prosecutor general.

Bong Wook, deputy head of the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office, on Thursday posted a resignation letter on the prosecution’s intranet, bidding farewell to his colleagues.

“Because I was also a candidate for the prosecutor general post, I believed it is courteous to promptly express my resignation,” Bong told the JoongAng Ilbo.

On June 13, the Justice Ministry’s nomination committee selected four prosecutor general candidates including Bong and Yoon. President Moon picked Yoon as the country’s new chief prosecutor on Monday, ordering him to complete the administration’s political housecleaning of the country’s top investigative agency.

The nomination was interpreted as a move aimed at defying the prosecution’s long-held tradition of seniority. Yoon passed the bar exam in 1991 and joined the Judicial Research and Training Institute in 1992. Outgoing Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il entered the institute in 1987, five years earlier than Yoon. Among prosecutors, the year of admission to the institute largely decides their level of seniority. Speculation grew that top prosecutors more senior than Yoon will step down to clear the path for the new chief prosecutor.

Justice Minister Park Sang-ki said Wednesday that the president had no intention to press all senior prosecutors to step down, although it is necessary for the prosecution to end its rigid hierarchy based on seniority.

“Seniority is not important,” Minister Park said Wednesday when he attended the National Assembly’s Special Committee on Judicial Reform. “It is true that the culture of seniority had some undesirable effects on the organization. To achieve reform, it is necessary to end such a practice. Ability and attitude are important for a prosecutor, not seniority.”

Minister Park also said future appointments to senior posts in the prosecution will be made based on ability, not seniority. Yet he said this doesn’t necessarily mean all prosecutors who are senior to Yoon must step down.

As of now, about 20 senior prosecutors who head district and high prosecutors’ offices are more senior than Yoon. Song In-taek, head of the Ulsan District Prosecutors’ Office, who openly challenged Moon’s reform initiatives, told the media Tuesday he would tender his resignation with the Justice Ministry.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]