South Korean Human Rights Monitor


Sex with suspect: Is it bribery?

Sang Kyul Park January 30, 2013

On Nov. 22, 2012, the Inspection Department of Supreme Prosecutors’ Office announced that it was launching a probe into the allegation that a junior prosecutor surnamed Jeon, 30, had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the suspect of his case on Nov. 10. The female suspect surnamed Yoon, 43, had been brought in for questioning on multiple counts of alleged theft. Jeon is suspected of having had another sexual contact with the suspect at a motel two days after the first incident. Jung Cheol-seung, the attorney of the suspect, raised suspicions that there was a serious breach of duty and law in the prosecutor’s conduct.

According to the prosecution, the current Junior Prosecutor Jeon had been heralded as a model jurist having graduated first in his class. He was appointed as prosecutor last March and was assigned to the Mokpo branch office of the district prosecutors’ officefor judicial training. Even if he was on probational status for training, he had full authority as a prosecutor. Although it is customary that an investigating officer sit with the suspect along with the prosecutor, according to the Inspection Department, Jeon was the only one in the room with the suspect during questioning.

On Nov. 25, an arrest warrant for Jeon was issued on charges of bribery. The prosecution stated that Jeon had an inappropriate sexual relationship with the suspect in return for a favorable  ruling in the outcome of the investigation. Due to a similar case in the past in which a police officer was arrested for having sex with a suspect in return for covering up the case, which was categorized as adultery, the initial grounds for the warrant was adultery. However, due to the consensual nature of the agreement between the prosecutor and the suspect, the case can be categorized as bribery.

To be charged as bribery, the prosecution must present proof that the inappropriate relationship was a price paid for the favor the suspect was seeking.However, Jung, the attorney representing the suspect, claimed that since the suspect was not in the position to resist the offer, this was a case of adultery not bribery.

This is the first time the prosecution accepted a sexual favor as a bribe. This case aroused controversy in the legal circles and women’s organizations. The law community did not consider the sexual relationship as a bribe, because there was no such precedent. The women’s organization refuted the charge and said that what Jeon did was a clear case of  ‘adultery by someone  “in the position of power.”  They added that even though there was no physical violence or threat, if there was evidence of an intimidation, either physical or psychological the case can be ruled as a sexual abuse.

The court dismissed the case twice  on the grounds that   in order to punish Jeon with a bribery charge, the suspect also has to be accused, which she was not.




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