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[Editorial] Fallen star

Senior prosecutor, IT guru face charges

July 15, 2016 - 17:31 By 이윤주
The scandal involving senior prosecutor Jin Kyung-joon and Nexon founder Kim Jung-ju is another reminder of how negligent the elite in this country are in abiding by the law and upholding minimum ethical standards.

Jin was put into custody Thursday on graft charges, and it has yet to be seen what charges Kim will face. But what is certain is that the scandal – centered on the allegation that Jin earned as much as 12.6 billion won ($10.94 million) in suspicious transactions of Nexon stock courtesy of Kim – will alter the lot – which has been pretty good by far -- of the “star” players in their respective professions.

One of the many troubling aspects of the case is that it shows that Kim, founder of the nation’s top online game-maker and one of the most celebrated information technology gurus, is little different from tycoons at the nation’s notorious family-controlled chaebol, who often face criminal punishment for breaching the law.

Besides the suspicion that he arranged the “jackpot” for Jin – which could see him charged with bribery, Kim faces allegations of embezzlement and tax evasion in other cases as cited by a complaint a civic group filed with the prosecution. This too should be clarified.

But the most outrageous element of this damnable episode is the part played by Jin, a vice minister-level prosecutor who has held many key posts as an elite member of the nation’s supreme law-enforcement authority.

The way Jin responded to the allegation was sickening too. He kept lying about the source of the 425 million won with which he bought Nexon shares in 2005. Now what we hear is that Nexon gave him the money without any conditions.

Jin sold the Nexon shares in 2006 for about 1 billion won, with which he bought shares of Nexon Japan, which gave him the windfall after being listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. 

On his way to interrogation, Jin offered apologies and admitted to some misconduct. It is rare for senior officials to admit misconduct before prosecutors charge them, and Jin’s action is suspected to be part of a plea bargaining tactic.

Besides the stock trading, there have come more allegations against Jin of ethical lapses: He allegedly used a Hyundai Genesis luxury car leased by Nexon – the registered user of the car was his brother-in-law. Prosecutors were right to regard this as bribe too when taking Jin into custody.

Prosecutors said the brother-in-law ran a cleaning company, for which affiliates of Hanjin Group signed contracts allegedly in return for favors Jin gave the group over an investigation into a tax evasion case in early 2010s. Prosecutors said Jin tried to contact Hanjin officials in an apparent cover-up attempt.

The key part of the investigation should be finding out whether Jin provided favors to Nexon or Kim – as he is alleged to have exerted influence with Hanjin – in return for the dubious stock transactions that made him a billionaire overnight.

Many of us in Korea are closely watching the prosecution’s investigation. This is not because of the dramatic element of the disgraceful fall of a star prosecutor, but because much more important things are at stake.