Where the justice minister standsAfter suspicions arose over alleged collusion between a Channel A reporter and a top prosecutor to dig up dirt on a core ally of the Moon Jae-in administration, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae defined it as an attempt to “assassinate Rhyu Si-min,” an outspoken liberal pundit and ardent supporter of the administration.
Minister Choo deprived Prosecutor General Yoon Seouk-youn of his right to command prosecutors and exercised it on her own. Her puppet, Lee Seong-yun, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, immediately zeroed in on the case to prove his prosecution skills. Then, a senior prosecutor under Lee claimed he obtained evidence to support the alleged collusion. He even forcefully snatched a mobile phone from Han Dong-hoon — a top prosecutor close to Prosecutor General Yoon.
A court then issued an arrest warrant for Lee Dong-jae — the Channel A reporter — to “restore trust in the prosecution and the press.” KBS and MBC, which have been under attack for their persistent pro-government broadcasts, also reported that prosecutors had obtained tangible evidence of collusion. Ruling party lawmakers encouraged the two broadcasters. Those are notable scenes of the liberal administration attacking both the prosecution under Yoon and conservative media such as Channel A.
But the results are shabby. Prosecutors led by Lee — the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office and a close ally of Justice Minister Choo — have failed to include charges of a collusion with Han in their indictment of Lee, the reporter. Investigators in the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office vowed to prove their collusion through additional probes down the road. In the end, the district prosecutors indicted another reporter from Channel A — instead of Han — for trying to find evidence of corruption among pro-government figures.
The lead-up to the indictment has explicitly shown the past evil practices of the top law enforcement agency — including mobilizing prosecutors to punish anti-government figures, even including prosecutors, excessive methods to obtain evidence, leaks of information to pro-government media outlets and unapologetic blackmailing.
The stunning division within the top law enforcement agency shows it all. After Choo, a former five-term lawmaker and judge, took the helm of the Justice Ministry in January, a myriad of politically-motivated prosecutors sprang up to faithfully follow orders from above, regardless of their pride and conviction. They are only interested in promotion in return for their blind service for the powers that be.
The prosecution must get to the bottom of the real collusion — between the two state-run broadcasters and pro-government prosecutors and see if the Seoul District Prosecutors’ Office really conducted investigations lawfully. If prosecutors dilly-dally instead of investigating corruption and abuse of power, they should be inspected by the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. Genuine prosecution reforms begin with that.