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By the book

Nov 25,2017
A unique judiciary formula has been maintained in Korea. A person is believed to be guilty when arrested, and not guilty if investigated without being physically detained. It is within constitutional rights for a person charged with an offence to be investigated and tried without being physically detained under the principle of being presumed innocent until proven guilty. A person should be physically detained only in exceptional cases. Many people get arrested before they are convicted regardless of their constitutional rights because of social and political opinions. Prosecutors seem to think they can arrest anyone who is under investigation in the government-sponsored campaign to root out past wrongdoing.

Former Minister of National Defense Kim Kwan-jin was released on Wednesday, 11 days after his arrest over alleged involvement in the military’s illegal manipulation of online public opinion against liberals during the Lee Myung-bak administration. His release marks the first of its kind in the ongoing probe into the wrongdoings of the past two conservative governments. After it reviewed the legality of his arrest, the court said there was a “margin for dispute” and a “need to protect the accused right to defense.” It also deemed that there was little chance of Kim fleeing the country or distorting evidence. Kim is known to be an upright military figure who had served as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, defense minister, and national security chief under presidents Roh Moo-hyun, Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye. It would go against his character to flee or distort evidence. Some have been questioning the fairness of the court judgment, but its decision is just normalizing what had been abnormal. It is outrageous for prosecutors to complain about his release.

President Moon Jae-in previously had criticized the arrest as abuse of prosecutorial power by making a suspect a hostage. Once arrested, the person is not just put behind bars, but is then seen as being guilty. This could make the person easily succumb to investigators’ pressure.

Prosecutors seem to think raiding, seizing and arresting is the normal way to proceed. The court, which should contain them, mechanically grants arrest warrants. Investigators arrested former prosecutor Byun Chang-hoon early in the morning when his children were still at home. They hand-cuffed former spy chief Lee Byung-kee, who is over 70 years old. When an arrest warrant is denied, prosecutors push for another until they get it. Prosecutors must realize they cannot be above the law.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 24, Page 34