Don’t abuse itThe planned establishment of an extraordinary law enforcement body to keep tabs on public servants is meant to elevate trust in the government by raising its transparency and accountability. President Moon Jae-in’s administration wanted to ratchet up our national competitiveness through a reinforced and fairer justice system. Above all, the establishment of a law enforcement agency separate from the existing prosecution was initiated as part of prosecutorial reforms after the prosecution has long been criticized for its inability to probe corruption among the powers that be.
The law creating the law enforcement body that will investigate high-level officials, including government ministers, prosecutors and judges, mandates that the head of the agency be endorsed by opposition parties and approved through a confirmation hearing. That’s a demand for neutral investigations. Staffers of the agency are also required to maintain strict political neutrality — and should not be vulnerable to instructions or interventions from outside.
In an alarming development, however, heavyweights in the Moon administration are singling out Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl and prosecutors who indicted former prime minister Han Myeong-sook for bribery as first cases for the agency even before it is launched. Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae has joined the “crusade” by stressing the need for a retrial of the former prime minister, accusing the prosecution of double standards on suspects.
The launch of the special body awaits lots of hurdles, including a revision of the National Assembly Law. After the revision, a newly appointed head of the agency must appoint his or her deputies, junior prosecutors and investigators. All in all, it could take at least six more months before the agency can start its mission.
The government’s demonstration of hostility towards those not friendly with it constitutes a brazen threat to opponents. Why does minister Choo try to specify the agency’s investigation targets when it is supposed to be an independent organization separate from any of the three government branches? Isn’t that an abuse of power as justice minister?
The act establishing the special agency mandates that all cabinet members, including Choo and lawmakers, be investigated if they commit wrongdoings. It does not make any sense for the government to treat the agency as a war trophy after winning a landslide victory in the April 15 parliamentary elections. The government must return to its senses immediately.