Most people have heard the phrase about hammering down the nail that sticks out.
What happens when the offending nail is the chief prosecutor for the nation?
Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook has just now been accused in the leading conservative newspaper, the Chosun Ilbo, of fathering a son, out of wedlock. Why would this be newsworthy, if true? To discredit a prosecutor that has had the temerity to question the role of the NIS in illegally exerting influence in the last presidential election?
Possible but, according to one article in the MK Business News, Prosecutor General Chae is also the man responsible for going after the illegal stash of money that Chun Doo-hwan had hidden away within his family circle:
. . . the prosecution (Chae) armed with the `Act on collecting Chun Doo-hwan’s punitive fine’ and public support ultimately led the Chun family to unveil a plan to pay the remaining fines by intimidating that the Chun family would all be subject to prosecution.
After the related ruling came out in 1997, the task has faced many bumpy roads. The issue of fine collection has resurfaced after Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook took office. (link)
Could this mean that Prosecutor General Chae has been overzealous in his role as chief prosecutor and has made certain old-school power brokers angry by directly threatening their interests?
I certainly can not answer the question, but it is interesting that Prosecutor Chae has demanded a retraction from the Chosun Ilbo and has announced that he is willing to take a DNA test to prove that he is not the father of the child in question. Chae also is to demand a correction from the Chosun Ilbo for incorrect, if not libelous reporting.
I would ask – though we are still trying to determine who is responsible when a government agency (NIS) interferes in an election, who is responsible when a newspaper decides to discredit a prosecutor who is trying to do his job for the welfare of the nation?
It is now Chief Prosecutor Chae’s turn to embarrass the Chosun Ilbo and maybe, some other unknown member of the current administration:
. . . “We decided to file a lawsuit because the Chosun hasn’t taken any action, even though we asked them on Monday to publish a correction,” said Koo Bon-seon, the spokesman of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. “To resolve the matter, we decided to take the issue directly to court instead of going through the Press Arbitration Commission.”
. . . The Chosun Ilbo’s Sept. 6 edition mentioned the boy’s certificate of family relationship, his residence address and the specific date that he left Korea for schooling in New York. A later edition claimed that school records named the boy’s father,” two Democratic Party legislators said at a press conference. “That information can’t be obtained without cooperation from government officials. Handing over such information to another person is subject to criminal punishment”. (link)
Considering his personal character and drive, maybe Chae Dong-wook should run for president, in the future.
Chief General Prosecutor Chae has resigned his position stating that he would continue his suit against the Chosun Ilbo:
Today, I am relieving myself of the heavy responsibility of prosecutor general . . . ” (link)
According to Yonhap News:
. . . The resignation came shortly after the justice minister ordered an inspection of the case, saying there was an “urgent need to promote stability of the prosecution office and to reveal the truth as soon as possible.”
It marked the first time that a justice minister has ordered an inspection into the country’s top prosecutor over a scandal involving a personal matter.
Perhaps the justice minister’s unprecedented entrance into this affair was a sign from the highest levels of government that it was time for General Prosecutor Chae to leave. Though I am not a fan of the Korea Times, their comments on the tactics of the Ministry of Justice is telling:
. . . quite a few Koreans suspect this might be a joint scheme of those in the core of power and the conservative newspaper to drive out this disobedient prosecution head.
The seed for his resignation after just five months in office was sown when he first caused friction with Cheong Wa Dae over the prosecution of state spies who allegedly meddled in elections. Chae pushed ahead with indicting a former head of the National Intelligence Service (NIS), in defiance of opposition from justice ministry, for directing NIS agents to conduct a smear campaign against opposition candidates in last year’s presidential election.
When Chae initially pushed back outside pressure by volunteering to take a genetic test and prove the Chosun Ilbo story wrong, the power elite seems to have decided to use the “inspection card,” depriving Chae of his authority and making the prosecution dysfunctional. Otherwise, it is hard to understand why the justice minister couldn’t wait until how the proposed DNA test pans out.
This page, along with most other Koreans, hope these presumptions are wrong, as we don’t want to see the nation’s democracy go back decades ago to when leaders used the state spy agency for political maneuvering. For any faithful news watchers, it was evident that the NIS, to get out of the biggest crisis the state spy agency is in because of unwarranted meddling in domestic politics, has made a series of “revelations,” ranging from the disclosure of the records of the 2007 inter-Korean summit to the latest spy ring accidents involving a leftist lawmaker.
It is also hard not to point out, as one in the same profession, the way the Chosun Ilbo reported this case: the self-imposed most influential paper neither provided any plausible grounds for its allegation nor confirmed its contents before reporting, let alone giving Chae an opportunity for a counterargument, like some irresponsible tabloids.
Two of the biggest victims of this third-rate drama will be the mother and son, whose private lives have been brutally exposed to the public gaze. It is another sad reminder of how the institutions of political power, including arrogant media outlets, can trample on basic rights of powerless individuals to pursue quiet lives ― and the urgent need to reform these agencies by the people’s power. (link)
Now President Park has refused to accept the resignation of Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, a senior official said Sunday:
. . . “The resignation has not been accepted,” senior presidential press secretary Lee Jung-hyun told reporters. “Revealing the true should come first.” . . . A presidential aide also said that Chae’s case is not about the prosecution’s independence, but about ethics of a public official. (link)
The presidential aide completely missed the point of this issue, which is not about the PG’s ethics or independence – which were never in question before he investigated the NIS – but why has this libel been printed in a major newspaper with ties to the Saenuri Dang, at this very time?
The deputy chief of the internal inspectors’ office, Kim Yun-sang, also resigned Saturday in protest of the justice minister’s order that an outside prosecutor be named to investigate Chae. The Deputy Chief is also quoted as criticizing the Minister:
. . . He is a bad leader who has completely failed to fight against political influences, and who failed to protect the chief of the senior investigations agency. It is also insane that the ministry didn’t consider using the prosecution’s own inspection headquarters for this work. I heard about the investigation from the news media, not from the ministry or from the prosecution organization. Such a process is unacceptable and doesn’t usually occur. (link)
This is still unfolding and will be interesting to see just how the President plays this issue now since too many people are not going to let this issue and the NIS affair die quietly.