Confusing the public

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Confusing the public

The Moon Jae-in administration’s bold drive for revamping the prosecution and the police only confuses the public. We are concerned that the reform drive will end up worsening the conflict between the two law enforcement agencies.

It all began last month when the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and three minor opposition parties teamed up to fast-track legislation reforming the prosecution after excluding the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) from the process. After the four parties pressed ahead with legislation that rearranged investigative rights between the prosecution and the police, and another act on the establishment of a special law enforcement body aimed at investigating high-level government officials — linking those two reforms with a bill on electoral reform — the LKP attacked the DP. With a meaningful gesture, Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il publicly opposed the government-proposed rearrangement of investigative rights, saying it violates the democratic principle of checks and balances.

The prosecution stressed the need for judicial control of police investigations while pledging to reduce the share of cases prosecutors investigate on their own. Yet the Blue House and the National Assembly simply ignored the prosecution’s position and Justice Minister Park Sang-ki went in the opposite direction.

On Monday — only four days after the prosecutor general’s public opposition to the government’s initiative — the ruling party, the government and the Blue House came up with a plan to reform the police even without mentioning the rearrangement of investigative rights. The core of reforming the two law enforcement bodies is ensuring their political independence and protecting human rights for suspects. Yet the government hastily hammered out a plan behind closed doors.

The government wants to divide the police organization into “administrative police” and “investigative police,” set up a national investigation headquarters and expand autonomous local police. If that happens, a ludicrous situation may develop in which local police are located on the first floor of a precinct, national police on the second and investigative police on the third.

The biggest problem are the appointments of a prosecutor general, head of the special body to investigate corruption among senior officials, and a chief of the national investigation headquarters — both by the president. The government must prudently approach the issue. If all the parties involved cling to their own interests, reforms could just be a pipe dream.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 22, Page 30
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