Moon must speak outOn the internal electronic bulletin board prosecutors use, hundreds of postings are about Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae. The chain online campaign is a kind of protest against the justice minister who has been cornering Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. They mostly criticize Choo’s abuse of power.
The e-campaign was triggered by Choo’s comment on Facebook. In response to a prosecutor’s critical piece, she said, “Come out [expose the identity]. Reform is the only answer.” She even posted an article exposing the prosecutor’s past of being accused of violating the rights of a suspect.
Choo’s move can be interpreted as a warning to prosecutors who don’t comply with the Justice Ministry’s orders. The prosecutor’s original attack on the justice minister drew a chain of approval from other prosecutors.
Choo has stoked collective protest from prosecutors. Over the last 10 months in office, she degraded the prosecutor general whenever she could and demoted all of his aides. She acted as if her primary mission was to oust the chief prosecutor. She even transferred prosecutors, who were investigating politicians close to the government, far away from capital regions. She also came to the full defense of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family on trial for corruption.
Although they were outraged by the infringement on their institution, most prosecutors have contained themselves as their action could be portrayed as a revolt against the government’s reform drive. But the justice minister’s aim at a junior prosecutor blew up their rage.
The sight wearies the people. Public lives are hardened by the economic hardship from a protracted coronavirus crisis. The way Choo behaves is getting too annoying. The fight among the defenders and critics of Yoon is also fatiguing. The ruling party members, who once praised Yoon, now turn into his attackers and are fanning political apathy.
Prosecutors joining the rancor can add to the confusion. There is no progress in the financial scams over Lime and Optimus Asset Management that caused major losses for investors. They have become muted by the struggle between the justice minister and chief prosecutor.
President Moon Jae-in must interfere. He has stayed on the sidelines despite the deepening conflict. He must express his confidence in Yoon or explain whether or why he condones Choo’s attack on the prosecution. Keeping mum only aggravates social conflict and confusion.