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Law enforcement leadership should be held responsible for botched manhunt
JULY 25, 2014 06:41  
During the National Assembly`s ad-hoc committee meeting on the manhunt for Yoo Byeong-eon, the fugitive shipping tycoon wanted for allegedly being responsible for the April 16 sinking of ferry Sewol, Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Police Commissioner Lee Sung-han came under a barrage of criticism from lawmakers calling for their resignation. Lawmakers from both the ruling and opposition parties criticized the incompetence of the prosecution and the police, which lost the fugitive right before their eyes and continuing the manhunt for him without knowing he had already died more than 40 days ago.

After President Park Geun-hye strongly reprimanded the law enforcement agencies during a Cabinet meeting on June 10, they even mobilized military troops and held emergency neighborhood meetings across the country. However, Yoo had already died at the time. The president urged Yoo`s capture four times. Each time, the prosecution said it had been sharing all information with the police "without any problem." However, it turned out that the prosecution kept key information from the police.

When the prosecution raided Yoo`s villa in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province on May 25, it should have informed local police and asked for support. Prosecution investigators arrested only a woman who had been assisting Yoo but failed to find Yoo, who was hiding in the villa. Then, the investigators left the villa without deploying police security guards, giving the fugitive an opportunity to run away. All of them were great mistakes caused by the prosecution`s exclusion of the police. Worse yet, the prosecution kept its additional but failed villa raid secret for nearly a month, only to reluctantly disclose it after a body found near the villa was confirmed to be Yoo`s. Prosecutors did not even share with the police the information that Yoo had left a bagful of money amounting to 1 billion won (about 9.8 million U.S. dollars) at the villa. Believing that Yoo had been on the run with a large amount of cash, the police failed to search nearby hilly areas.

Justice Minister Hwang and Prosecutor-General Kim Jin-tae should clearly reveal when they were briefed on the discovery of the bagful of money at the villa. It is a problem if they were not briefed on the finding. It is a bigger problem if they were briefed on the discovery but failed to inform the police. They must remember that the law enforcement agency`s failed attempt to conceal and fabricate the torture and killing of a pro-democracy student activist dealt a severe blow to the Chun Doo-hwan administration.

The responsibility for the failed cooperation between the prosecution and the police should go further up from Choi Jae-kyung, chief of the Incheon District Prosecutors` Office, and Jung Soon-do, head of the Jeonnam Provincial Police Agency. Choi resigned from his post, while Jung was relieved from his job. Had the two law enforcement agencies cooperated properly, they would have had various chances to arrest Yoo. If the police and the prosecutor had given a second thought about what they were doing, the police would not have wasted 1.45 million man-days to search some 200,000 places across the country and even mobilized military troops. The leadership of the police and the prosecution should be held responsible in order to overhaul the law enforcement agencies.

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