Point of no return

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Point of no return

The Blue House and government’s relentless assault on the prosecution has crossed a point of no return. Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae ignored internal rules to drive out Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl despite deepening public sentiment surrounding the issue. The Justice Ministry eventually canceled a plan to conduct a face-to-face inspection of the top prosecutor Thursday afternoon. Yet the ministry vowed to press ahead with the inspection citing Yoon’s refusal to accept such a humiliating inspection.

The public knows all too well why the liberal government is going after the top prosecutor: to protect the safety of the Moon Jae-in administration after he steps down in 2022. The governing power does not hide it anymore. It suddenly sent two junior prosecutors from the Justice Ministry to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to contact the chief prosecutor — an act quite reminiscent of the Red Guard during the days of the Cultural Revolution in China.

The Justice Ministry’s inspection rules do not allow any infringement on the independence of the prosecution when it conducts inspections on its members. Its code of conduct clearly stipulates that an inspection must follow procedures, including giving prosecutors enough time to prepare for inspections in advance. But the top prosecutor was not even informed about why he should be inspected. If someone accuses Justice Minister Choo and prosecutors demand her presence based on the accusation, would she comply with it?

News reports say the minister had to send a senior prosecutor back to his district office after he refused to inspect his boss. The ministry explained that she made the decision due to a lack of manpower in his district office. Who can accept such a poor explanation? An impromptu inspection attempt can be punished as abuse of power. Not only Choo but also junior prosecutors involved in the episode could face penalties.

Is this the minister’s doing? Moon’s silence translates into tacit approval of her maneuvers to kick out the top prosecutor to protect his aides and ministers after his term ends. The responsibility for cleaning up the mess squarely falls on the president. If he fails to put the brakes on the hot-tempered minister’s challenges to the ministry’s integrity, the president cannot avoid a dangerous future. If he believes he still can keep power based on the unwavering support from his base, he should think again. 

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