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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on July 31)

07:10 July 31, 2020

Shameful division

Two prosecutors got into a scuffle during an investigation over alleged collusion between a senior prosecutor and a reporter, underscoring the deepening divide in the top law enforcement agency since Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl has been stigmatized as a common enemy by the Moon Jae-in administration. The scuffle between the two high-level prosecutors suggests how the political attack is damaging the prosecution.

The investigation team arrived at the office of Han Dong-hoon — a top prosecutor who was accused of helping a reporter to find dirt about a pro-government figure — to take away the USIM card from Han's mobile phone for evidence. Han claimed that when he was unlocking his phone to call his lawyer, the senior investigator Jeong Jin-ung suddenly body-slammed him. Jeong said he was only trying to stop Han from "deleting some evidence from his phone."

The warrant to search and seize Han's phone was issued by a court on July 23. However, an internal deliberation panel within the prosecution recommended that the investigation team stop its probe and indictment of Han the following day. The Seoul Central Prosecutors' Office has not made any response, but suddenly acted out the warrant and proceeded with the case on Han. Its action has entirely ignored the internal panel's recommendation and normal procedure, as it should have explained the need for the seizure regardless of the panel's recommendation.

The Seoul Central Prosecutors' Office issued a press statement that a prosecutor was injured and hospitalized during a physical clash with a suspect. It justified the investigator's action as "Han could easily delete the files in the phone after unlocking his phone." Evidence seized through unlicensed criminal procedures is not valid in court. Its brazen behavior may come from its confidence of winning the case.

Han suspects the investigators were after his phone after it was unlocked. Searches of phones often hit a snag because of password security.

Although he is now a suspect, Han is superior to Jeong. Han is known to be close to Prosecutor General Yoon. The investigator's rude manner might not have happened if he had respected the prosecutor general. The matter must not be treated simply as an internal affair. There were witnesses and CCTV. Jeong is said be on the list for promotion which will be announced soon. The case should be clearly explained before the promotion.
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