When the Ministry of Justice announced his inspection, it said that continued controversies over the morality of the chief prosecutor were "an issue of grave importance that would greatly affect the public trust in the prosecution." It seems that Chae, who showed little response to the controversies, took the justice ministry`s announcement made just two days after President Park Geun-hye returned from an overseas trip as a signal that he should step down.
Even if Chae does not have any child born out of wedlock, some facts that have been disclosed so far are enough to put him under inspection. In a recent letter sent to some newspapers, the bar owner denied that Chae is the father of her son. However, she noted that she had had a relationship with him for a long time since 1999 and that the child put Chae`s name on his school record and told even his relatives that Chae was his father. While Chae denied that he had an illegitimate child, he did not deny the other claims. If the prosecutor general is embroiled in such allegations, he would not be able to perform his duty normally, potentially affecting the entire prosecution. Regardless of the truth about the child, Chae seemed to have no choice but to resign.
One day before the justice ministry announced the inspection, Chae filed a lawsuit against the Chosun Ilbo to seek a correctional report and announced that he would take a DNA test. Of course, a DNA test requires consent from the child`s mother. Even if she agrees, it was unclear when a test would take place, as the child is staying in the United States.
It was noticeable that the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae found Chae uncomfortable over the prosecution`s handling of politically sensitive cases, including one involving the National Intelligence Service`s alleged intervention in last year`s presidential election. Many also viewed the dismissal of Kwak Sang-do, former senior secretary to the president for civil affairs, from such perspectives. Reportedly, the presidential office strongly protested the prosecution for charging former spy chief Won Se-hoon with violation of the election law. Opposition parties took the opportunity to attack President Park. They will also likely to link Chae`s resignation to political pressure on him.
Chae`s resignation shortly after the announced inspection does not look honorable, considering his strong posture before the probe was launched. It must be difficult for him to continue to perform his duty at a time when both the president and the justice minister who were responsible for his appointment showed no-confidence gesture against him. However, he should not have given up the DNA test so easily if the allegations about the child was not true.
With the resignation, Chae is now a private citizen. No one can force him to come clean about the alleged son born out of marriage. In his resignation statement, he did not mention the lawsuit or the DNA test. It is uncertain whether he will go ahead with the litigation or the DNA test. It would be frustrating if the case that pushed the nation into controversies over the truth fizzles out.
Shortly after the report about the allegedly extramarital child, Chae showed a "I have no idea" response, which was lukewarm in common sense. Although he stepped up his rebuttal, saying the allegation was unfounded, he did not express his willingness to address the suspicions through a DNA test until it was very late.
Chae was the first prosecutor general appointed through a recommendation committee. He passed the previous administration`s screening and went through the parliamentary confirmation hearings. During the processes, his alleged extramarital affair was never discovered, indicating loopholes in the verification processes for public offices. Cheong Wa Dae should reinforce the verification system and quickly name a new and respectable prosecutor general to stabilize the shaky prosecution.