Prosecution reform should go onPresident Park Geun-hye has replaced her chief of staff and a few of her senior secretaries. Former three-term lawmaker Kim Ki-choon, who also served as justice minister and prosecutor-general, was named as the new chief of staff. Hong Kyung-shik, a retired prosecutor with two decades of experience, was appointed the senior secretary for civil affairs. Kim and Hong are many years ahead of current Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-an and Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook in public service. Some are already worried that influence and meddling in prosecution and judiciary affairs from the presidential office could increase.
Many suspected there was influence from the presidential office under former President Lee Myung-bak every time a high-profile politician was summoned by the prosecution.
Prosecution investigations in civilian surveillance by prime ministerial office employees and the purchase of a retirement residence by the president’s family had to be reinvestigated because the findings were questioned.
The new government abolished the central investigation department of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office after 32 years of dealing with major political cases because its political neutrality had been frequently questioned. During her campaign, Park said the “prosecution has been bestowed with authority by the people to uphold law and order through strict law enforcement. Corruption is still ripe because it has not fulfilled its role.”
Since the prosecution is part of the administration, it is up to the president and the government to keep watch so that it does not abuse its power. At the same time, the prosecution must be encouraged to carry out reforms to win public confidence. But the president and the government must stay out of the prosecution’s individual cases.
To maintain credibility, they must refrain from making any remarks about ongoing investigations. Park lambasted the handling of the case dealing with transcripts from the 2007 inter-Korean summit talks, calling the mysterious disappearance of the transcript from the National Archives an “unprecedented event.” Her comment could trigger unnecessary misunderstanding and controversy about an ongoing prosecution case.
Prosecution reforms cannot proceed without the cooperation of the president, presidential aides, and the prosecution. The president must demonstrate that the prosecution won’t serve a political purpose. The prosecution also should not succumb to political pressure. The people are watching who the prosecution serves.