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Demoted prosecutor tries to end his own life

Jan 31,2018
Chung Seung-myeon, 50, head of a branch of the Daegu District Prosecutors’ Office, was found semiconscious in his apartment after an apparent suicide attempt Tuesday. Chung was facing demotion and a probe into alleged misconduct.

When Chung failed to show up for work in Gimcheon, North Gyeongsang, Tuesday morning, a colleague visited his apartment. He found Chung on the ground and called an ambulance, which arrived around 9:30 a.m., according to a neighbor.

Chung had burned charcoal briquettes in his room, and was having trouble breathing after inhaling toxic gas.

Police found a suicide note in his room. “I apologize to the Prosecutor General. I will go carrying everything alone. I will not smear the prosecution’s reputation,” it read.

According to the Gimcheon office, Chung was transferred to the emergency room in nearby Jeil Hospital for treatment. When his blood pressure returned to normal and he regained consciousness, Chung was transferred to the intensive care unit in the afternoon.

“Chung drank a lot the previous night,” one colleague recounted.

“He usually can’t handle any alcohol,” one of Chung’s acquaintances said. “Even after he began acting as the new head of the Gimcheon office, he rarely drank.”

Some people who knew Chung suspect that he deliberately drank as part of a plan to commit suicide later.

Though the motives for the suicide attempt are unclear, onlookers suspect that the combined stress of facing investigations of alleged misconduct and being demoted pushed Chung to end his own life.

After Chung’s suicide attempt came to light, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office investigation headquarters reported, “Chung had faced investigations of allegations that he had inappropriate contact with a person embroiled in a [prosecution] case. Investigations were conducted following regular procedures and are due to wrap up soon.”

People who knew Chung said that he was under severe stress after being demoted on Jan. 26 to a regular prosecutor in the Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office. The reassignment came just five months after Chung assumed the position of Gimcheon prosecution office head last August.

Previously, Chung had served as dispatch prosecutor in the Blue House office of the civil affairs secretary from March 19 to July 31, 2008, in the initial stages of former President Lee Myung-bak’s administration. He has also worked for the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office and the Ministry of Justice.

Since President Moon Jae-in came to power, many complained that senior prosecutors who worked in the Blue House under former presidents Lee and Park Geun-hye were penalized. One of the first prosecutors to be affected was Daegu High Prosecutors’ Office head Yoon Gab-geun, who was demoted last July, just two months after Moon’s inauguration.

Kim Jae-hoon, a senior prosecutor at the Busan District Prosecutors’ Office, resigned after learning of his demotion last week in the same personnel reassignment announcement that announced Chung’s demotion.

BY KIM JUNG-SEOK, KIM EUN-JIN AND CHAE HYE-SEON [kim.eunjin1@joongang.co.kr]