Blue House holds the key

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Blue House holds the key

The prosecution is afflicted with a critical leadership vacuum since the abrupt resignation of Prosecutor-General Chae Dong-wook after a controversy about his private life last month. After an internal schism over the prosecution’s investigation into the National Intelligence Service’s online smear campaign during last year’s presidential election, worries are growing about a potential paralysis of the prosecution. It is time to hurry the appointment of a new prosecution chief by considering what qualifications are demanded in the post and what kinds of efforts should be made to establish political independence for the prosecution.

The Ministry of Justice is scheduled to hold a meeting today to pick three candidates from the 12 individuals recommended by an internal screening committee. After the minister recommends one candidate to President Park Geun-hye, she will make a final decision, and the candidate will then go for confirmation at the National Assembly. The recommendation committee is supposed to check each candidate’s leadership ability, morality and reputation.

The appointment of a top prosecutor carries great importance this time given the alarming leadership crisis that led to the resignation of Han Sang-dae as prosecutor-general last November. Han’s successor, Chae, also had to resign over allegations that he had an out-of-wedlock son. He only held office for six months. In the legislature’s annual audit of the prosecution on Monday, the head of a special investigation team looking into the spy agency’s illegal political activities wrangled with his superior after he was dismissed from his job on grounds that he had not reported his arrests of NIS agents to the boss in advance.

To overcome the crisis, someone with strong leadership skills is needed. The new prosecutor-general must also have strong convictions about political neutrality and internal reform. The unceasing crises primarily result from the prosecution’s reluctance to reform itself. The new top prosecutor must protect his staff from any external pressures and cut back on their excessive prosecutorial powers, too.

Most important is President Park’s determination. As long as the shadow of political power is thrown over the prosecution and endless suspicions ensue, it can hardly be considered to be politically independent. The Blue House must be determined to not put pressure on its investigations and respect its conclusions even if they are unsatisfactory. Only then can the government achieve prosecution reform. We hope the appointment of a new prosecutor-general is a stepping stone.
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