Choo vows to continue president’s reform of prosecution
“Reforming the prosecution, which is [seen] as the most difficult [task], has become a demand of the times that nobody can resist,” Choo said in an inaugural speech at the ministry building in Gwacheon, Gyeonggi.
“[We] have to become the ‘priming water of reform’ that will not only align the [relevant] enforcement ordinance but also change the organizational culture and customs from their roots,” the judge-turned-lawmaker said, pledging to take follow-up measures on a recent reform bill passed by the National Assembly.
Calling “reform” and “fairness” the “spirit of the times” as well as the backbone of the Moon administration, Choo said she will support those values by taking action such as tightening “democratic control” of the prosecution to recover the public’s trust.
Choo’s speech came a day after Moon conferred a letter appointing the five-time lawmaker as justice minister, a post that has been vacant for more than two months since her predecessor Cho Kuk stepped down amid a probe into his family’s alleged academic fraud and financial wrongdoing.
Moon pinned hopes on the new justice minister to continue his bid to reform a prosecution that critics claim wields excessive investigative power compared with the police.
The new justice minister, known for her nickname “Choo d’Arc” deriving from the strong-willed heroine Joan of Arc, is expected to accelerate the liberal administration’s prosecution reform bid.
Despite fierce opposition from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), the National Assembly in December passed a bill establishing an independent unit tasked with probing corruption charges against high-profile public officials.
As part of the prosecution reform drive, the parliament is expected to handle two other bills in the next few weeks that will grant police more investigative rights.
As expected, political parties showed mixed responses following Choo’s appointment.
The ruling Democratic Party welcomed the decision, calling her “the right person” to spearhead the prosecution reform and stabilize the Justice Ministry and relevant organizations.
The LKP, however, claimed the move was intended to weaken the prosecution and cover up high-profile investigations.
Some incumbent and former presidential officials are suspected of conspiring to help Moon’s close friend, Ulsan mayor Song Cheol-ho, win the mayoral race in the southeastern city in 2018 and of covering up an inquiry into a bribery case of a Busan vice mayor.
The probes have blown up into major cases involving multiple raids at government offices, including the presidential office and the Finance Ministry. Key figures, including former Justice Minister Cho, have also been questioned in relation to the allegations. The Blue House has flatly denied the suspicions.