A half-baked act“A new investigative body for senior government officials will focus on the powerful people, including the president,” said President Moon Jae-in in a strategic meeting in the Blue House last week outlining a reform of the prosecution, the police and the National Intelligence Service. His remarks emphasize the role of a new law enforcement agency as a body dedicated to investigating corruption involving those with power. Strangely, however, an act on the establishment of the new body, which was agreed to by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and three opposition parties — but not by the main opposition Liberty Korea Part (LKP) — is quite different from what Moon said.
On Monday, the DP and three opposition parties — the Bareunmirae Party, the Party for Democracy and Peace, and the Justice Party — decided to put the bill on a “fast track” after agreeing to controversial electoral reforms. The four parties endorsed the bill in respective meetings on the following day. The bill would grant the new body the right to investigate and request a court-issued warrant — excepting the right to indict. Instead, the bill gives judges, prosecutors and high-level police officers the right to indict. But the problem is the exemption of the president’s relatives, high government officials and lawmakers as targets of indictments by the new investigative body.
The four parties explained that the bill would allow the new investigating body to request courts to reconsider the prosecution’s decision to not indict the president’s relatives and lawmakers when the need arises. Yet that does not make sense. Who can believe the new body will do the job right? It can hardly help root out corruption among the elites in our society. Besides, the bill has a serious loophole as it allows lawmakers to avoid indictment by the new inspection authority.
The Blue House’s reaction is also incomprehensible. Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Cho Kuk, a former law professor, supported the bill, saying, “While law deals with systems of theories, acts are a product of politics.” Presidential Secretary for Political Affairs Kang Gi-jung said it is regrettable that Moon could not see his political determination bear fruit.
The establishment of the new law enforcement agency involves a colossal revamp of our criminal law. That is not an issue to be settled by political parties alone. The bill agreed to by the four parties does not even match the basic goal: dividing the prosecution’s rights to indict. The four parties must review the whole process and start over.
JoongAng Ilbo, April 24, Page 34