Moon sitting on his handsPresident Moon Jae-in chose to keep silent. With the two quarrelling chiefs of the law enforcement authority — Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl — seated in the same room for an anticorruption meeting Moon chaired on Monday, the president did not mention the political attack on Yoon or the justice ministry’s excessive meddling in prosecutorial activities. Moon disappointed the prosecution, which had hoped he would step in to defend the independence of the prosecution from political influence.
In his only reference to the ongoing brawl between Choo and Yoon, the president asked the justice ministry and prosecution to cooperate to set the grounds for justice in civilian criminal investigations. His emphasis on “cooperation” could be interpreted as a message to Yoon to comply with the justice ministry’s orders, including the latest sticking point over revisiting a past bribery case involving former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook.
Moon’s ambiguity can only condone the ruling party’s ongoing campaign to oust Yoon. Lawmakers of the party could think the president is on their side and raise their voices.
In a meeting on the same theme in November last year, President Moon said that any prosecutor chief (if not Yoon) must continue with efforts to establish a fair and anti-corrupt system. The ruling party ratcheted up its offensive against the prosecution by interpreting the president’s comment as loss of confidence in Yoon.
Handing out the certificate of appointment in July last year, Moon asked new Prosecutor General Yoon to be equally strict on irregularities of the Blue House, government and ruling party. Yoon faithfully complied with the presidential order. His steadfast investigations on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family and suspected Blue House meddling in the Ulsan mayoral election all underscore Yoon’s uncompromising principle.
Thanks to his devotion, Yoon earned public praise for finally achieving the political independence of the top law enforcement agency. But the ruling party has stigmatized Yoon as a traitor.
The president who had handpicked Yoon for the post of prosecutor general also has not come to his defense. Many are questioning why Moon kept mum on Yoon in Monday’s meeting in the Blue House.
Critics of Yoon chant prosecutorial reforms and a truly independent prosecution office. If they really mean it, their actions must show.