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SEWOL DISASTER: Prosecutor quits over failed manhunt for ferry owner

Publication Date : 25-07-2014


A senior prosecutor who led a massive investigation into the alleged corruption involving businessman Yoo Byung-eun offered to resign Thursday, taking responsibility for the failed manhunt for the de facto owner of the Sewol ferry.

Choi Jae-kyung, chief of the Incheon District Prosecutors’ Office, submitted a letter of resignation to the top prosecution office, ending his 26-year career as a public prosecutor.

The announcement came two days after the authorities confirmed the death of Yoo on Tuesday. The police said a decomposed body found near Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, last month was that of Yoo.

The prosecution came under fire for failing to arrest the fugitive for nearly two months although the nationwide manhunt involved tens of thousands of investigators, police officers and the military. The prosecution said later that Yoo had been hiding inside a small closet at a country house when investigators raided the cottage on May 23. Authorities are also facing fierce public criticism for the delay in identifying the body, although it was found only 2.5 kilometres from Yoo’s hideout.

Choi, 51, is a veteran prosecutor who built a reputation by leading a series of high-profile corruption cases. He handled slush fund cases involving Hyundai Motors in 2006 and the Lone Star tax evasion case in 2007, which earned him the nickname “the Best Blade.” He also led investigations into bribery cases involving the elder brother of late President Roh Moo-hyun and Park Yeon-cha, chairman of Taekwang Industry Co.

Choi is known as a hardliner in the prosecution who strongly opposes the government’s plan to abolish the central investigation unit as part of a major restructuring of the prosecution office. The department handled cases involving government officials, politicians and businessmen, and has long been accused of political bias and connections.

Choi served as the chief of the powerful department, some months before it was disbanded in early 2013. He reportedly offered to resign at that time, in protest of the abolishment of the key department.


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