Cho on the roadA government employee under a prosecutorial probe would normally keep a low profile. Even if unjustly accused, he or she would watch how they speak or behave to lessen the trouble or damage to the government organization or others. That’s just common sense. But Justice Minister Cho Kuk acts in a way that is not normal. He dropped by a district prosecution office at Euijeongbu in northern Gyeonggi for his first round of talks with prosecutors on Friday. His wife has been indicted and his first cousin once removed has been physically detained for questioning. Cho, too, could be summoned for interrogation by prosecutors. The timing and format of his tour of the district prosecutorial offices cannot be right.
The justice minister should be regularly meeting with prosecutors in the field. The office requires paying attention to the voices from the field to make necessary fixes to customs and rules. But still, Cho’s action can be questioned for a political motive. No prosecutor will be able to freely express opinion in the current, baffling situation. At the meeting with 21 prosecutors, few spoke beyond ceremonial comments. The speaker was mainly a prosecutor who had run into conflict with senior prosecutors over the investigation of state-run casino operator Kangwon Land. The meeting could not have been natural or normal.
The routine group photo session also was skipped. Prosecutors politely excused themselves after the dialogue ended. They might not have wished to be in the same photo with Cho given the backdrop of the current awkward situation. One prosecutor in an internal e-bulletin wrote that “the new justice minister chanting reform is like Yoo Seung-joon, a former singer who cannot return to Korea after he evaded conscription in 2002, telling all the people who oppose to his return to serve the military if they like it so much.”
Cho plans to continue to make his rounds at prosecutorial offices around the nation. But he should stop. He is putting prosecutors in agony. It is also an uncomfortable sight for the people who were already forced to endure so much because of the controversies he had caused. He should wait until his name is cleared following the investigation. Then prosecutors will be willing to have an open discussion and happily pose with him for photos. But meanwhile, he should discreetly wait for the results of investigation. That’s the least he can do for the people in the field. The Justice Ministry and senior prosecutors also should be ashamed for not deterring him.