prosecution chief nominee-hearing

SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- President Park Geun-hye's nominee for the nation's top prosecution post said during his parliamentary confirmation hearing on Tuesday that he is determined to reform the prosecution.

Chae Dong-wook, 54, now head of the Seoul High Prosecutors Office, has been tapped to succeed former Prosecutor General Han Sang-dae who stepped down from his post last November following a string of disgraceful scandals within the powerful organization.

"I am determined to push forward with the prosecution reform," Chae said.

His comments come after the parliament passed the Park administration's overhaul proposal of a major restructuring of the prosecution, including the abolishment of the powerful Central Investigation Unit (CIU) within the Supreme Prosecutors' Office by the end of the year.

The elite unit, which handles bribery cases involving high-profile government officials, politicians and businessmen, has long been accused of political bias and often blamed for lacking the prosecution's political neutrality.

"I do not oppose (the plan to scrap the CIU)," said Chae, adding that he will follow the decision of the National Assembly.

The nominee, however, called for more discussions on alternative systems to replace it.

In a written statement sent to the parliament, the nominee proposed establishing a separate department at the top prosecution that can command special investigations by local prosecutors offices.

He also raised the need to expand the role of special prosecutors, currently limited to in-house corruption cases, so they can handle high-profile cases susceptible to controversy over fairness and neutrality.

First introduced in 2010 to look into cases involving prosecution officials, the special prosecutor system offers independent and exclusive authority to prosecutors picked by the Prosecutor General.

"I will thoroughly reorganize the special investigation system to break a vicious circle of rampant corruption in our society," Chae said.

So far, only three bribery cases have been probed by special prosecutors, with the most recent one handling a ranking Seoul prosecutor, Kim Kwang-joon, who was charged with receiving a huge amount of bribes in exchange for favors.

The nominee also vowed to build a transparent human resources system and to expand the role of state auditors.

As to the suspicions on the state spy agency's unlawful interference on the last presidential poll, Chae vowed a swift and thorough investigation into the case.

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