Arrogance encapsulatedProsecutor General Yoon Seok-youl built his image as an upright prosecutor after he pressed ahead with investigations of the online opinion manipulation scandal during the conservative Park Geun-hye administration. Former Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn was disappointed at the way then-senior prosecutor Yoon pushed the probe. However, the justice minister refrained from stepping in, upholding the independence of the top law enforcement agency. Hwang was cognizant of his role as guardian of justice.
The Democratic Party (DP), an opposition party at the time, called for the resignation of the justice minister and the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs citing their alleged intervention in the prosecution’s investigation of the online opinion rigging case. Looking back, we cannot but question what kind of prosecutorial reforms the liberal Moon Jae-in administration wants to achieve through an enforcement decree the office of his senior secretary for civil affairs has drafted. According to the decree, targets of prosecutors’ investigations are confined to senior government officials above the level of fourth grade, those who took more than 30 million won ($25,063) in bribes, drug smugglers and others. As a result, the prosecution can hardly investigate top officials in the government because senior officials above the level of third grade are supposed to be investigated by a special law enforcement agency to be established soon.
More embarrassing is a clause of the decree that stipulates that a prosecutor general should get approval from a justice minister on explosive cases that can incur “massive damage to a majority of the people.” The Moon administration has persistently stressed the importance of unbiased investigations to create a “fair and just society.” And yet the Blue House wants to force a prosecutor general to get approval from a justice minister before the prosecution launches investigations. Why? Opposition parties and prosecutors attribute it to the government’s attempt to avoid investigations of its own wrongdoings in the twilight of the Moon administration.
If current Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae had a right to grant approval for investigations by Prosecutor General Yoon, could he have started investigations of a plethora of charges against former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family? Could prosecutors look into evolving suspicions over the Blue House’s alleged intervention in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018 and a case of abuse of power involving former Vice Busan Mayor Yoo Jae-soo? Does the decree drafted by the Blue House really fit President Moon’s demand of Prosecutor General Yoon for a “relentless probe into the powers that be”?
Since Moon’s appointment of Choo as justice minister in January, a heated battle has been waged between the prosecution and justice ministry. Individuals’ political inclination can differ. However, investigations by the top law enforcement agency should be fair. The Blue House’s decree was inconceivable. Opening the way for the justice minister to meddle in the prosecution’s investigations epitomizes the arrogance of this administration.