Cynical reformsA reform plan for our law enforcement agencies that the government, ruling Democratic Party (DP) and Blue House announced on Thursday is focused on preventing the prosecution from investigating corruption, including bribery of high-level officials in the Moon Jae-in administration. We are deeply concerned about the alarming changes the liberal government is attempting to institutionalize.
First of all, the reform plan has restricted the targets of direct investigations by the prosecution to six types of crimes: senior officials’ crimes, corruption, the economy, elections, defense contracts and large disasters. But the plan seeks to limit the targets of investigation as well. For instance, it allows prosecutors to probe officials above the level of the fourth grade, while leaving investigations of the rest to the police. However, as government officials above the level of the third grade are supposed to be investigated by a special law enforcement body that will be established soon, the prosecution can hardly look into crimes of top government officials. Also, if several officials from a government department took bribes, investigations might be undertaken on some but not others based on their levels. What a ridiculous system that would be.
If the police becomes more powerful after the rearrangement of investigative rights between the prosecution and the police, probing police corruption becomes difficult. In the reform plan, the prosecution can only investigate the head (at the fourth grade) of a police station — with the remainder to be probed by the police itself. Investigation of lawmakers is no exception. Except for their two fourth-level aides, the rest can avoid investigations by the prosecution no matter what.
The plan also allows the prosecution and police to launch investigations only when bribes exceed 30 million won ($25,100). But in fact, the amount of bribes cannot be fixed in the initial stages of investigation, as seen in the case of a former senior official of the Financial Services Commission (FSC), who received over 40 million won in kickbacks on several occasions.
Restricting the scope of investigations squarely clashes with the Prosecution Act. And yet the government is attempting to enforce the new guidelines by amending a Justice Department decree instead of revising the law. We are surprised at its creativity. If the government rushes to revise the decree, it will cause serious confusion in our law enforcement system.
We cannot deny the prosecution’s overbearing probes in the past. But the reform plan devised by the Justice Ministry, the DP and the Blue House will only cause inefficiency and confusion in digging up dirt on high-level officials in the government.