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Is Moon mounting pressure?

Sept 30,2019
President Moon Jae-in emphasized investigational powers must be “strict and yet restrained to respect civilian rights.” The comments were relayed by the presidential spokeswoman after Moon referred to the ongoing investigation of Justice Minister Cho Kuk which therefore can be understood as the president’s complaint over the prosecution’s probe into Cho. It is rare for a president to comment on an ongoing prosecutorial investigation.

His comments on the façade are nothing out of the ordinary. State investigations must be strict without violating human rights. But they were timed as the prosecution heats up over Cho’s family and relatives to implicate Cho himself. If the president or ruling front has any influence over the investigation, the people won’t be able to believe in the results. The president who should emphasize fairness and isolation of political influence has mounted pressure on the prosecution.

Since he took office in May 2017, he has not once spoken on abuse of investigational powers. He did not make any comments when a prosecutor committed suicide after being implicated in the scandal with the National Intelligence Service or when a military general was found innocent in court trials after being indicted by the prosecution. If he had raised questions about civilian rights violations then, his motive for making such a comment now wouldn’t be so suspicious. Compared with the flurry of prosecution investigations on past government figures and practices, the probe on Cho’s case has been discreet. The investigators did not seize Cho’s mobile phone or make any press briefings.

Moon commanded the prosecution to exercise “self-reflection” on public voices calling for prosecutorial reform even as the prosecution has been free to employ “all investigational powers” without any constraint. The mention of “all investigative powers” implies the president believes the ongoing probe is overbearing. In seating reform-minded, merciless Yoon Seok-youl as the prosecutor general in July, he had asked him to be equally “strict” on “sitting power.” Yoon has been merely obliging with the command.

Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon also criticized the prosecution for raiding and searching Cho’s house for 11 hours and having delivery food when only two women (Cho’s wife and daughter) were at home. But he has gotten the facts wrong. A male lawyer of Cho’s wife had been present during the search. The lawyer had interfered and stopped to check what was searched. The investigators ate delivery food at the invitation of Cho’s wife.

Lee’s comment also does not make sense. Does he mean that prosecution must differentiate searches in the case of the male or female presence? State investigators should not be regarded as strangers pushing their way into one’s home. How can the head of the cabinet make such accusations against public servants doing their jobs?

The entire governing power is ganging up on the prosecution and deepening the social divide over Cho’s case by doing so. Yoon responded that the prosecution will complete the investigation strictly according to the legal procedures and will also do their utmost to realize reforms. That is what the public wishes too.


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