Undermining prosecutorial reform

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Undermining prosecutorial reform

The Ministry of Justice is mulling an internal probe into the prosecution for its “wrongful” indictment of Choi Kang-wook, a secretary in the Blue House in charge of public office discipline. The ministry is risking a head-on face-off with the prosecution following the two rounds of purging prosecutors. Why is the ministry so intent on shaking the prosecution under Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl?

The Justice Ministry is considering an inspection on senior prosecutors after they filed for an indictment under the order of their top chief Yoon instead of going through their immediate boss Lee Seong-yun, who has been recently seated to head the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. Under the Prosecution Act, a prosecutor of a district office should take command from his or her district chief.

But the law also stipulates that a prosecutor general has the top command over the top law enforcement agency. The indictment procedure therefore should not be problematic as it has been endorsed by the top prosecutor. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae also has no authority to kick off an inspection on prosecutors because the prosecution’s internal affairs fall under the prosecutor general.

If Choo really wants to start an inspection, she should also address Lee Seong-yun’s action because Lee bypassed his boss Yoon by reporting directly to Choo on Choi’s indictment affairs. Lee said he has directly reported to Choo because Yoon already knew the developments. But Lee refused to endorse the indictment signed off by the prosecutor general. Prosecutors are demanding a special probe to determine who had really done wrong.

The Justice Ministry has replaced most of the senior prosecutors under Yoon and also the second-rank prosecutors investigating the government in a clear message to the prosecution not to mind the “sitting power.” Choo would be invading the prosecution if she pushes for an inspection on prosecutors. She would be suspected of targeting to push Prosecutor General Yoon out of office for touching Choi, the secretary in the Blue House. Whatever the reason, such an overstretch can seriously undermine the government’s cause for prosecutorial reform.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 28, Page 30
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