Fairness is keyNew Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl has met with political leaders. Opposition party heads expressed their concerns about the “one-sided” appointments he has made for his team. Yoon must reflect why there are voices of concern and how he can pay heed to them in his oversight over prosecutorial affairs.
The opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn demanded a “balance” from the new prosecution chief because the top law enforcement agency is the “last resort for civilian rights.” He went on to point out that senior posts have been fill by too many prosecutors “of a certain division.” Yoon thanked him for his points. Minor opposition Bareunmirae Party Chairman Sohn Hak-kyu remarked that prosecutors who have “cooperated” with the government have been given “important positions” while those who had led investigations against figures of the sitting power get demoted. Yoon defended the recent reshuffle, saying that 40 to 50 senior prosecutors on average resign during the reshuffle period.
But if the chain resignation is “not extraordinary,” the uproar within the prosecution, which continues even a week after the reshuffle, cannot be explained. Many prosecutors who worked with Yoon at the special investigation team in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office — which is responsible for investigations of wrongdoings of the past conservative governments — were promoted to senior posts, while those who had carried out investigations of people in the current administration were demoted or exempted from promotions.
Except for one, seven senior posts at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office were chosen from the special investigation team who worked on anticorruption cases with Yoon at the central investigation department of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Prosecutors from the criminal, anti-terrorism and planning teams must have felt left out. The appointments could have sent a message to prosecutors not to challenge the sitting power. Around 60 prosecutors have offered resignations in protest.
During his meeting with National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, Yoon said the prosecution will try its best not to aggravate the economic conditions with investigations. If the prosecutors from the special investigation team that are now holding senior titles go after politicians or businessmen for high-profile corruption cases, the business and political community could be swept up in an unnecessary panic. Yoon must take extra care so that the “tilted” appointments do not lead to “tilted” investigations. He must exercise the “fairness” he stressed in his inauguration address.
JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 9, Page 30