e The author is a columnist at the JoongAng Ilbo.
The crime rate in Korea, including all criminal violations, is about 2 percent. A crime rate refers to the number of crimes per 100,000 people. The statistics for the past 10 years show that it has never surpassed 2,000 cases per 100,000. That means about 98 percent of the Korean population are living peacefully without any links to crime. So why are President Moon Jae-in and the members of the ruling Democratic Party risking their political lives to create an extra investigation body for senior public servants, while ignoring the lives of everybody else?
The most convincing reason so far is that they want to follow through with the unfinished project of the late President Roh Moo-hyun. “It was foolish for me to try to guarantee political neutrality to the prosecution without reforming the top law enforcement agency [by establishing a new investigation body],” Roh said. “I believe the insults and oppression I and my colleagues suffered from the prosecution after my term were the outcome of such a foolish act.”
Roh’s remarks appear in a book published in 2010 by Rhyu Si-min, who recently failed to defend former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and disgraced the liberal values. When a messenger faces skepticism, the message also faces doubts. It is generally known that Rhyu does not hesitate to flip-flop on common sense and social consensus only to defend his allies.
Taking into account former President Roh’s tragedy, it is understandable that the liberals loath the prosecution, who attacked the retired president with all their power. But we need to think about why Roh could not make prosecutorial reform his top priority during his presidency.
He could not make it the top priority because he had to concentrate his power on policy tasks that are directly and indirectly affecting 98-percent of the people’s lives — such as the Korea-U.S. FTA, an inter-Korean summit, a grand coalition with the opposition parties and the construction of a naval base on Jeju Island to brace for security challenges in the future.
It is likely that Roh could not have made prosecutorial reform — which would affect only 2 percent of the people — a top presidential priority, as it would be enough for him to hand over the job to the justice minister or the prime minister to push forward with it.
If Moon thinks prosecutorial reform is the dying wish of Roh, he must reconsider the reality. He will face even more turmoil than the latest situation in which he had to let go of Cho in order to press ahead with the establishment of the extra law enforcement body.
The judiciary led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Kim Myeong-soo, who is generally obedient to President Moon’s comments, is already showing concerns. “There are about 6,000 to 7,000 public servants who are subject to investigations by the new law enforcement agency, and half of them are judges,” said Minister of National Court Administration Cho Jae-youn. “When this new agency is set up, judges could be discouraged.”
Why are the president, ruling party members, and the loyal supporters of Moon — who are also defenders of Cho — obsessed with enacting a law that only concerns 0.01 percent of the 50 million Korean people? They probably don’t see the foreign affairs and national security crisis, plummeting economic growth rate of less than two percent, worsening public sentiments that worry about the Moon administration’s turn to socialism and Moon’s plunging approval rating.
Until the late days of Roh’s presidency, the initiative to create a new investigative body could maintain innocence with an aim to weaken the prosecutors’ power in order to promote human rights in their investigations. A decade later, in the era of Moon, the plan now contains many toxic measures that triggered criticism that he is trying to create an agency under his jurisdiction so that it can serve as a political weapon, as seen in the Gestapo of Nazi Germany, to run a liberal dictatorship.
The fear is based on Moon’s way of running the country for his allies only, not to serve the entire people, during the past two and a half years.
The people worry that the extra investigation agency will round up political enemies, prosecutors and judges critical of the administration. They worry that when the prosecution launches a probe into an ally of the president — for example, Cho — the new agency will take over the case and shut it down.
The head of the new agency and its high-ranking members will surely be picked from among law professionals close to Moon, who are members of the Lawyers for a Democratic Society, the Society for Research on Our Law, and the International Human Rights Law Research Society.
Moon recently said proudly that no other politician had enjoyed the people’s love like he did. If he pushes forward with this new agency, he won’t be able to say that any more.