Not a question of resignation

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Not a question of resignation

A society cannot be healthy if a senior public official must sacrifice his or her position to make a stand. A problem does not go away through the replacement of a rebel. The Korean bureaucratic society can progress through endeavors of finding a solution instead of merely removing the problem.

Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il cut his overseas trip shortly after he publicly made his opposition to a Blue House-led reform bill to divide investigative rights between the prosecution and the police. Upon returning, Moon said he agrees with the need to change the way the prosecution has been doing their job. But he opposes any moves that could “undermine the protection of basic rights of civilians.” He said he does not want to cling to his seat. Justice Minister Park Sang-ki criticized the prosecution’s “selfishness” and argued for the need to reform the prosecution’s exclusive investigative authority to ensure checks and balances. The tensions between the Justice Ministry and the prosecution have escalated with the return of the prosecution chief.

Seeing things in such extremes can hamper constructive discussion. If government offices clash with one another instead of trying to work out differences, the damage will go to citizens. The prosecution chief should not hand in his resignation in protest of the governmental push to readjust investigative authority. Former prosecution heads also made similar attempts against moves to water down the prosecutorial power. But nothing has changed. Moon’s move should also not be regarded as a rebellion against the Blue House. He is expressing his opinion and concerns as the head of the prosecutorial organization.

The bill has been tabled for a fast-track process. The reform outline finally has the legislative attention after it was first announced in June last year. There is still time for revision as it usually takes 180 to 330 days for legislative review. The prosecution has a point in expressing concern about outsized police power if the prosecution loses control over the police’s investigations and the police have the full authority over the entire process in prosecution from initial probes to indictments. There must be more study on stripping the prosecution’s supervisory authority.

Instead of hyping excessive power and betraying distrust against one another, the prosecution and the police must make their points based on facts. The legislature must debate how it can better balance criminal investigation and human rights. Selfish and defensive arguments hardly have any regard for public interests.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 6, Page 26
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