Praise for justice ministerIn his praiseworthy inaugural speech new Justice Minister Chung Soung-jin vowed for just and impartial execution of the law on investigations related to the presidential election. Although obviously the prosecution’s political neutrality is a principle that should be maintained, the minister’s pledge to follow that basic principle sounds fresh because our prosecution has not been free from political pressure.
In his speech Chung said it was indeed prevalent that “the laws were degraded to political means or overshadowed by loud voices striving for democracy,” and “the prosecution distorted people’s judgment by handling its tasks with political perspectives.”
Far from political neutrality, the prosecution was willing to serve power. It is not necessary to look far to find such cases. During a recent bribery scandal involving Jung Yun-jae, a former presidential protocol secretary, prosecutors were reluctant to investigate Jung.
After Chung said at a hearing on Aug. 31 that the prosecution needed to clear away any suspicion related to the case, prosecutors hurriedly expanded the investigation by banning dozens of people from leaving the country.
It was an example of the prosecution’s typical practice of currying favor with the boss.
As Chung correctly perceives, the prosecution’s political neutrality should be emphasized more than ever this year because of the presidential election.
Moreover, the Roh Moo-hyun administration has set a precedent of frequently infringing the prosecution’s independence, as when former Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae tried to supervise the prosecution’s investigation and former Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan was suspected of influencing the prosecution’s probe.
If the prosecution again interrogates opposition party presidential candidates before the election as in 2002, when it investigated the sons of then-Grand National Party presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang on charges of illegally evading mandatory military duty, prosecutors will never regain the publics trust. If the prosecution gives in to political pressure, the country’s constitutionalism and democracy could be shaken to its foundation.
We are hopeful that the prosecution will execute laws in a just and impartial way without influence from political pressure as Chung vowed, thereby re-establishing its reputation as the country’s highest organization to protect justice and the law.