Prosecutor in NIS probe will be suspended
A prosecutor accused of defiance during the politically charged investigation into the spy agency’s disinformation campaign during last year’s presidential election will face suspension, while his boss will be saved from punishment, sources at the prosecution office said.
Following an internal probe into the behavior of prosecutors investigating the National Intelligence Service’s activities during the presidential campaign, the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office held a meeting Friday to decide disciplinary actions, the sources told the JoongAng Ilbo. Punishments against Yun Seok-yeol, head of the Yeoju Branch of the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office, and Cho Young-Kon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, were discussed at the meeting.
A special team of prosecutors was investigating allegations that the NIS had intervened in the December presidential election by operating an illegal online smear campaign against Democratic Party candidate Moon Jae-in. Yun was the lead prosecutor of the case until he was dismissed from the investigation on Oct. 17 for unsanctioned raids on and arrests of NIS officials.
According to the law governing NIS workers, NIS agents cannot be arrested - even with a warrant - unless the prosecution or the police notify the NIS chief in advance. Under the chain of command in the NIS probe, Yun was required to inform Cho about the plan and Cho would alert the Supreme Public Prosecutors’ Office and the Ministry of Justice before they reported it to the NIS chief.
On Oct. 21, Yun dropped a bombshell by telling lawmakers in a hearing that there was “external pressure” when he was leading the probe. He said he reported his plan to his boss, Cho, prior to the raids and arrests, but Cho protested, citing political reasons.
Cho later denied Yun’s accusations and said he only told Yun that he would think about the plan.
The prosecution launched an internal inspection into the chain of the command in the NIS probe on Oct. 22. It decided Friday to suspend Yun. It decided not to punish Cho, concluding that he followed proper procedures.
It remains unclear how long Yun’s suspension will be.
Another prosecutor in the NIS probe, Park Hyeong-cheol from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, will receive a salary cut as punishment for having omitted reports to the upper chain of command.
The prosecution will ask the Ministry of Justice to take disciplinary actions and announce its internal inspection outcome today.
After reports said Yun would face heavy punishment, politicians were divided in their reactions.
“In any organization, going through the official chain of command is an appropriate thing,” Representative Hong Ji-man, spokesman of the Saenuri Party, said. “For the prosecution, that principle must be respected particularly thoroughly.”
The largest opposition Democratic Party, however, condemned the prosecution leadership for punishing Yun.
“Yun conducted the probe based on law and principle, and his conscience,” Kim Yeong-geun, a deputy spokesman of the DP, said. “Instead of giving him a prize, the prosecution will suspend him.”
BY PARK MIN-JE, SER MYO-JA [firstname.lastname@example.org]