[Opening the Prosecutors’ Safe⑨] Newstapa Launches a Crowd-Sourcing Project Asking Citizens for Collaboration

Oct. 12, 2023, 01:30 PM.

The Joint Investigation Group for Verification of Prosecution’s Budget (Gyeongnam Residents Daily, Newsmin, Newshada, Busan MBC, and Chungcheong Review) proposes to verify the special activity expenses concealed by the prosecution with the public participating in a form of crowdsourcing. It is an open “citizen participation” request to reveal new facts by gathering knowledge and information from voters.
On Sep 21, the Joint Investigation Group released the original materials related to special activity expenses received from 67 district prosecutors’ offices nationwide on the special page of “Opening the Prosecution’s safe.” They are 3,524 files, including Record of Expenditure Details, Receipts and Confirmation of Execution, Receipts, etc., amounting to 13.2GB. You can download the scanned PDF files of the original materials by selecting the year of different prosecution offices.
▲ Evidence of the prosecution’s special activity expenses consists of a Record of Expenditure Details and Receipts and Confirmation of Execution or Receipts. From the left, they are the Record of Expenditure Details, Receipts and Confirmation of Execution and Receipt forms.
The prosecution masked all the reasons for execution, as well as the names and titles of the recipients, in the evidence of the execution of special activity expenses, saying that “investigation secrets” might be exposed. In the materials released by 67 district prosecutors’ offices throughout the country, the only information that is not concealed is the dates and amount of payment.
However, after 80 days of investigation, the Joint Investigation Group decoded 761 cases (697 cases and part of 64 cases) out of 869 cases of special activity expenses executed for five years and eight months from Sep 2017 to Apr 2023 by the Goyang branch of Uijeongbu District Prosecutors’ Office, one of 67 district prosecutors’ offices in Korea. This was the first time that the execution of special activity expenses of a district prosecutors’ office for a certain period of time was verified in the form of a full investigation.
▲ Materials related to KRW 1 million of special activity expenses were spent on Aug 23, 2018, released by the Goyang branch. The words “investigation activity support” are concealed by the alphabet pattern.
When releasing the materials related to the special activity expenses, the Goyang branch used a document security roller stamp to conceal the contents of the evidence materials. If the stamp was applied more than once, the words were covered completely, making it more difficult for us to read them. However, for the words concealed by the patterns that were identifiable, the Joint Investigation Group enlarged the scanned documents, removed the patterns, put the concealed words together, etc., to identify the details of each of the 869 executions.
The group cross-verified allowances executed on the same day in the Record of Expenditure Details and Receipts and Confirmation of Execution. The recipients’ names were compared with the profiles searched online and the names of the heads of the branches, prosecutors, and investigators listed in the prosecutor deployment table. In addition, the group checked whether these people worked at the Goyang branch office on the date of receipt of the special activity expenses.
▲ An online store’s promotional image of a roller stamp used for personal information protection, parcel box disposal, and document security with the same alphabet pattern used by the Goyang branch office to conceal the contents of the documents.
The crowdsourcing page for verifying the prosecution’s budget goes through a 10-step test to familiarize participants with the letters concealed by the pattern. You can zoom in on the images by clicking on the patterns and click on “Clue” for help. If you answer by choosing one of the options presented, it will tell you whether you got it right and give you an additional explanation of the test word.
Once you are used to the 10-step test, you can download the original record of the monthly special activity expenses of the Goyang branch of the Uijeongbu District Prosecutors’ Office on the special page of “Opening the Prosecution’s Safe” to check out the tax execution details covered by the prosecution using alphabet patterns.
▲ An example of “special ability test” for monitoring the prosecution’s budget
Despite its best endeavors, the Joint Investigation Group failed to fully verify the entire expenditure materials for the special activity expenses released by the Goyang branch. For the period of five years and eight months, it verified only 697 cases out of 869. There is still a lot of information to be identified. 64 cases were only partially decoded, and 108 cases remain undecodable.
This is why the Joint Investigation Group has created a crowdsourcing page for citizens to help verifying the prosecution’s budget. It is imperative that citizens who have knowledge and experience related to prosecution investigation or have information on the area near the Goyang branch participate in the verification. They now have the opportunity to verify firsthand how the prosecution of the Republic of Korea has been spending the taxpayers’money.
Test your special ability to verify the prosecution’s budget here.
▲ The webpage for testing your special ability for monitoring the prosecution’s budget