Justice Ministry shenanigansChoo Mi-ae, a ruling party heavyweight, has started as justice minister, with her first task said to be reshuffling prosecutors. Any reshuffle is expected to influence the ongoing investigations into the Blue House’s alleged meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election, cover-up of a corruption probe of former Busan vice mayor Yoo Jae-soo as well as the criminal investigation into former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family. The reshuffle will be extraordinary as senior posts were already filled last July.
The reshuffle reportedly targets senior positions in the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office surrounding Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. There is a speculation that President Moon Jae-in has hurried the installation of the new justice minister to speed up the reshuffle. In a New Year’s address, Moon vowed “decisive” changes in the New Year, apparently in reference to the reshuffle.
There is concern about the involvement of Choi Kang-wook, presidential secretary in charge of public office discipline. He is suspected of fabricating an internship certificate for Cho Kuk’s son. He has not complied with a summons from the prosecution. The Blue House and Justice Ministry are suspected of readying the reshuffle of prosecutors to disrupt the ongoing investigations.
In her confirmation hearing, Choo indicated she would press ahead with appointments even if the prosecution does not like them. When asked whether she would be coordinating the appointments with the prosecutor general, she said no, although she would “hear opinions” before making recommendations to the president. The prosecution chief has authority over appointments, yet the justice minister suggested his opinion will only be “taken into consideration.”
The Blue House and government must not mistake political appointments as “democratic restraint.” The Moon administration has mandated a minimum one-year term for senior prosecutorial positions. The mandate was made by Cho Kuk when he was a senior presidential secretary for civil affairs to ensure fairness in appointments of prosecutors.
The Blue House is contradicting itself by disapproving its own system after prosecutors came after its own people. It must stop trying to tame the prosecution if it wants to uphold the value of justice and fairness.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 3, Page 30
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