Tags: S.Korea's | Minister | Replaced | Over | Torture

S.Korea's Minister Replaced Over Torture

Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM

Shim Sang-myong, a 60-year-old lawyer, was named as the new justice minister to replace Kim Jung-kil, who resigned earlier this week, along with Prosecutor-General Lee Myung-jae, to take responsibility for the high-profile death case.

Vice Justice Kim Kak-young, 59, was appointed as prosecutor-general, said Park Sun-sook, a presidential spokeswoman.

"The new justice minister and prosecutor-general are expected to restore public confidence in the country's law enforcement institutions," Park said in a statement.

The replacements came amid controversy over the death late last month of Cho Chun-hoon, a 30-year-old murder suspect, during interrogations at Seoul District Public Prosecutor's Office.

It was the first time for a suspect to be tortured to death while in prosecution custody, although a few suspects died of maltreatment while under interrogations by police and other investigation authorities. It was also the first official recognition that investigators beat the suspect to death while interrogating him.

The case was an embarrassment to the president, who won the 2000 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts on human rights and democracy and his work to reconcile South Korea with communist North Korea.

In an attempt to boost his image as a human rights advocate, Kim has created a state-run human rights protection office and a special truth-finding committe over mysterious deaths during dictatorial military rulers in the 1970s and '80s.

But the fatal torture case forced Kim to offer a public apology. "It is deplorable that a suspect was tortured to death by the prosecution -- a guardian of law and human rights," Kim said.

"Such an incident may occur in a dictatorial society. But how could this happen in a democratic one? As you are shocked, I am appalled and feel deep sorrow," he said.

In a rare move, Kim upbraided the prosecution. "The prosecution is supposed to be the last bastion to uphold the law and protect human rights. Seeing such an incident taking place in that institution is regrettable," he said. "The prosecutors should take this as an opportunity to reflect and renew determination to prevent the recurrence of a similar case once and for all."

The murder suspect, a member of a criminal ring, collapsed after being questioned as the main suspect in two murder cases, one in 1998 and the other in 1999. He was rushed to a hospital and was pronounced dead eight hours later. Family members said he was beaten to death by investigators.

The prosecutors initially denied any brutal treatment of Cho, but an autopsy discovered that the primary cause of his death was brain hemorrhage caused by an external shock.

The autopsy results forced the prosecution to admit cruel treatment of the criminal suspect and for top law enforcement officials to step down.

The Supreme Public Prosecutors Office has arrested a prosecutor on charges of having allowed the investigators to use torture. Hong Kyong-ryong, 37, became the first active prosecutor to be arrested for improprieties while conducting official duty.

After days of its probe into the case, inspectors announced on Friday two prosecution investigators used water torture on the accomplice of the murder suspect.

Copyright 2002 by United Press International.

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Shim Sang-myong, a 60-year-old lawyer, was named as the new justice minister to replace Kim Jung-kil, who resigned earlier this week, along with Prosecutor-General Lee Myung-jae, to take responsibility for the high-profile death case. Vice Justice Kim Kak-young, 59, was...
S.Korea's,Minister,Replaced,Over,Torture
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2002-00-08
Friday, 08 November 2002 12:00 AM
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