The ongoing massacreThe Justice Ministry has lost its senses. It has carried out a second round of purges in the prosecution after demoting most senior members under Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl on Jan. 8 and replacing them with figures loyal to the Moon Jae-in administration. It then removed most of the working-level prosecutors to “normalize” what it claimed was “abnormal” in the prosecution establishment. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae is naïve if she thinks she can fool the people and walk away unscathed for shaking their faith in the criminal justice system.
The latest reshuffle replaced four deputy heads at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office in departments that had been investigating the scandals involving former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and allegations that the Blue House meddled in the Ulsan mayoral election. Also replaced was a deputy in the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors’ Office in the division handling the bribery case of former Financial Services Commission Director-General and former Busan Mayor Yoo Jae-soo. Presumably, these people’s replacements will stall or influence the ongoing investigations. The new deputies could dilly-dally on approving summons or raids. The ministry then broke a tradition in the prosecution by replacing the vacancies with figures who had not headed divisions in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. The chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and three deputy heads, as well as the heads of the anticorruption and public security crime departments at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, are all from the Jeolla provinces, a traditional support base for the liberals.
Any new investigations of the government have become impossible. Even if cases pass the deputy heads, their bosses assigned by the government can stop them. Lee Sung-yoon, the new chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, has refused to endorse an indictment of Choi Kang-wook, a secretary in the Blue House. The message is clear. The Blue House must not be touched no matter what. The two rounds of shuffles have been vengeful. In the first round, most of Yoon’s aides were demoted. The deputies involved in investigations were removed. The president ordered Yoon to be equally strict with the powers that be — but took revenge when he actually was.
The shuffle has violated the Justice Ministry’s mandate on appointments. Deputy prosecutors must be ensured a minimum of one year in office. But those removed this time around were in their posts only from last August. Such acts are interference that can justify a motion for presidential impeachment. History has shown that the truth eventually prevails. Dishonest governments always face judgment by the people.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 24, Page 26
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