Fairness mattersDuring a confirmation hearing Monday in the National Assembly, Prosecutor General nominee Yoon Seok-youl vowed to establish “the prosecution for the people.” He made two specific promises. One is political neutrality for prosecutors. “I feel heavy responsibility for the prosecution being swayed by the ruling power and failing to keep its integrity,” he said. He also pledged to make no political compromises and oversee the strict execution of the law. “I will strictly deal with cases involving power abuse with the socially underprivileged as they suffer the most if the law is not executed properly,” Yoon said.
There were high public expectations for the prosecution after the launch of the liberal Moon Jae-in administration two years ago. Those hopes were dashed. In a Realmeter survey last month on the credibility of different groups, only 3.5 percent of the respondents trusted the prosecution, just above lawmakers at 2.4 percent. That reflects deep-rooted public distrust of the prosecution. Whenever scandals involving the government broke out, the prosecution behaved as if they only served the interests of the ruling party. The prosecution abused its power to search and seize, as well as to summon suspects for further investigation.
Yoon was picked as head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office thanks to his resistance to political pressure before being named prosecutor general. He has been heading a number of investigations into past corruption over the last two years, so he knows the significance of the prosecution’s political neutrality better than anyone else. We will watch closely to see if he really can make a difference.
Public distrust of the prosecution primarily comes from the people’s perception that it does not execute the law strictly or fairly. For instance, it showed an overly lenient attitude toward unlawful acts of the militant Korea Confederation of Trade Unions. If law and order is taken casually, a community cannot be safe, and the socially weak are always the first victims.
Yoon repeatedly underscored the importance of political independence. We hope he keeps his promise if he passes the legislative screening. In Monday’s hearing, his private meeting in February with Yang Jung-chul, President Moon’s close aide, became controversial.
We wonder why he reacted to the issue in such a sensitive way. Prosecutors must behave prudently. “Political prosecutors” are the worst of past evils that should be removed.
JoongAng Ilbo, July 9, Page 30