Stop the meetingAll of the six charges the Justice Ministry filed against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl appear as far-fetched. For instance, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae accused the top prosecutor of obstructing the ministry’s inspection of him, citing his “exchange of too many instant messages with senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon,” one of Yoon’s allies, over a case involving Han. However, as Han headed a number of criminal investigations at the time, he may have sought some advice from his boss. Shouldn’t Yoon have talked with one of his longtime aides about sensitive cases so as not to provoke any misunderstanding? The charge doesn’t make sense. Moreover, a Justice Ministry prosecutor stealthily collected the records of Yoon’s phone conversation without getting a court-issued warrant.
One seemingly feasible charge out of the six was that the top prosecutor spied on judges to help win a court battle. However, scores of judges representing the judiciary decided not to find fault with his “surveillance” of judges’ inclinations ahead of trials. They reached the conclusion that the top prosecutor’s gathering of personal information on judges through the internet did not constitute an act of spying. Therefore, Choo falsely claimed that Yoon had committed a grave violation of the Prosecution Act. She also singled out his “refusal to demand a pulling down of his name from popularity surveys by polling agencies ahead of the 2022 presidential election. That is also a nonsensical charge.
Choo is pressing ahead with a disciplinary committee meeting on Thursday to determine Yoon’s fate. The charges against him are weak and the disciplinary procedure extremely confounding. Choo didn’t tell Yoon who will be on his disciplinary committee meeting. A ruling party lawmaker claimed that’s the same as not informing interviewees of who their interviewers will be in a job interview. We wonder how he passed the bar exam.
Choo’s decision to let Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-ku participate in the meeting certainly does not make sense. Before he became the vice minister, Lee as a lawyer defended former Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu, who should be investigated by prosecutors for potential involvement in deleting data on the early shutdown of a nuclear reactor. Many believe Choo wants to oust Yoon to prevent his probe into the suspicious shutting of the reactor.
Last week, President Moon Jae-in underscored the importance of fairness and procedural legitimacy in a disciplinary process. Yet the justice minister knows nothing but haste. We don’t know why. If Moon believes in procedural justice as he stressed in the past, he must stop this preposterous process now.