Talks between Choo and prosecutors won’t air

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Talks between Choo and prosecutors won’t air

The Ministry of Justice turned down Wednesday prosecutors’ demands that a discussion about a plan to reform the prosecution between Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and top prosecutors from across the nation be aired live or minutes of the meeting be fully disclosed.

“As the division head responsible for arranging the meeting, I will create the minutes,” Kim Tae-hoon, head of the Prosecution Service Division of the Ministry of Justice, wrote in a message he posted Wednesday on the intranet of the prosecution. “There is no precedent that the entire minutes of a meeting of top prosecutors are made public. I will try to offer the summary of the discussion to share major points.”

Kim was responding to a prosecutor’s request that a meeting between Minister Choo and top prosecutors, scheduled for Friday, be made available to lower-rank prosecutors.

Ku Ja-won, a second-year prosecutor of Yeju Branch of Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office, wrote Wednesday in an intranet posting that he wants to know the details about the discussion on Choo’s reform plan. “Please let the rank-and-file prosecutors, someone like me, know more about the discussion,” he wrote. “I wish the minutes of the meeting be released so that we will know what proposal was made by the minister and what the feedback my superior prosecutors gave at the meeting was.”

After abruptly unveiling her plan in a press conference last week to reform the criminal justice system by separating prosecutors into two groups - one in charge of investigations and the other in charge of indictments - Choo invited heads of six high prosecutors’ offices and 18 district prosecutors’ offices nationwide to attend a discussion. Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl was invited, but he turned down the offer.

In his posting, Ku also expressed his skepticism toward Choo’s plan. He said he could not understand the concept of separating investigation and indictment in the role of a prosecutor.

Ku’s posting was just one of increasing demands from the prosecution to secure transparency of the meeting. They are calling for the discussion to be aired live or its minutes be released because they don’t want their position misrepresented by the justice minister later as if they were supporting the plan.

In 2003, President Roh Moo-hyun hosted a meeting with rank-and-file prosecutor, and the session was aired live. It featured heated, emotional debates, as young prosecutors fiercely challenged Roh’s campaign to reform the prosecution. In an apparent attempt to calm the prosecutors, the Justice Ministry said Choo’s proposed change will be discussed as one of several issues, instead of devoting the entire session to the plan.

Choo will present mainly four proposals at the meeting and listen to the prosecutors’ opinions. Among the proposals is a plan to introduce the U.S.-style grand jury system and a plan to appoint a general inspector for indictment. Modeled after a system in Japan, the general inspector will offer recommendations on whether a suspect should be indicted or not.

The ministry also drastically cut the schedule. The meeting was originally planned to be held from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Friday at a conference room of the ministry, but the ministry said the period was changed from 2 p.m. until 6 p.m.

Choo also decided to host a dinner after the meeting, instead of having a lunch in the middle of the discussion.

Sources in the prosecution said the participating prosecutors are set to challenge Choo’s plan at the meeting. They are reportedly gathering legal grounds, precedents and statistics to rebut Choo’s argument.

Prosecutor General Yoon has already made clear his opposition against Choo’s plan when he met with his allies in Busan last week. Several participants of the Friday meeting are Yoon’s associates, who were demoted from powerful posts in Seoul to head regional offices of lesser importance. They are expected to attack Choo at the meeting. According to the ministry, more meetings will be held to follow up on Friday’s discussion. Choo will host more meetings, and senior officials of the Justice Ministry will meet with lower-rank prosecutors and investigators of the prosecution to listen to their opinions.

BY SER MYO-JA, KWANG KWANG-WOO [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]

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