The Justice Ministry massacre

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The Justice Ministry massacre

We are disappointed at the Moon Jae-in administration’s reshuffle of top prosecutors dealing with criminal cases involving the Blue House. Some critics called it a “massacre” that is unprecedented in a modern democracy. Prosecutors have denounced the Ministry of Justice for trying to force them to follow its apparent investigation guidelines.

The reshuffle of top posts in the prosecution is nothing but cruel revenge on prosecutors who have led probes into the corruption of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family and the Blue House’s alleged meddling in the Busan mayoral elections last year to help Moon’s longtime friend win the race. The head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office — which has been investigating the two cases — was abruptly transferred to head the Institute of Justice, a think tank.

The head post of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office was filled by a senior prosecutor who graduated from the same law school as Moon. Some 32 senior prosecutors were replaced in a Blitzkrieg operation to retaliate against their investigations into various cases of corruption involving the Blue House and Moon’s aides.

New Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae clearly violated the law because she pressed ahead with the reshuffle without taking into account Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s opinion — as required by the law. Choo came up with an awkward explanation that Yoon refused to comply with her request for his views. But that does not make sense because she had already fixed replacements in close consultation with the Blue House. The justice minister must take responsibility — legal and political — for obstruction of justice.

The prosecution’s probe of the Blue House is at a crossroads. If prosecutors succumb to pressure from the ministry — and by extension the Blue House — and wrap up investigations prematurely, that’s a blot on their integrity. They must investigate to the end so as to clear up all suspicions about the Blue House and ruling Democratic Party.

The Blue House and the Justice Ministry must not hamper the prosecution’s investigations. There are rumors that they will hinder the probe through a follow-up reshuffle of prosecutors across the country. Even if the Blue House does that, it must not replace prosecutors who have been directly dealing with the cases. The government must not forget a warning from former prosecutor general Kim Joon-gyu, who said, “Former democracy movement activists are destroying the very foundation of our democracy.”

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 10, Page 30
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