Birth of a behemothAfter the redistribution of investigative authority between the prosecution and the police, a mammoth police organization takes off, starting next year. But there are concerns about a reshaped law enforcement body that has taken over the right to conclude investigations on its own from the prosecution and the right to investigate pro-North Korean activities from the National Intelligence Service when we consider a lack of checks on the behemoth police organization. The police have been accused in the past of reneging on their obligation to maintain political neutrality, clearly seen in its tepid investigations of the Blue House’s intervention in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018.
As expected, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Tuesday asked the prosecution not to indict anyone in relation to sexual assault allegations against the late Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon. The decision to close the case came after a probe of nearly half a year, although the case against the mayor was closed after his death in July.
Political analysts believe the police tried to pardon the mayor’s habitual misconduct to relieve the ruling Democratic Party of a political problem ahead of the Seoul mayoral by-election in April. The truth behind the scandal must be found after the case is referred to the prosecution. The police have often made similarly biased decisions. When Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu was accused of using violence against a taxi driver while under the influence of alcohol earlier this month, the police brushed it off as a misdemeanor.
Despite the Moon Jae-in administration’s all-out campaign to reform the prosecution, it has focused on handing much of the prosecution’s power over to the police. The government even pressured the prosecution to stop its ongoing investigations into corruption and abuse of power by high-ranking officials in the name of prosecution reforms. The result is the incoming establishment of a monstrous investigation agency — the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials — which has been placed above the prosecution.
The police organization is supposed to be divided into three entities — national police, national investigation headquarters and local autonomous police — under the same roof. If such a gigantic police body is set up, it will be more difficult to clear all suspicions lingering over explosive cases involving high-level officials. We cannot but wonder what the Moon administration really wants to achieve down the road. The National Assembly must establish effective mechanisms for checks and balances on this gigantic police organization before it’s too late. Otherwise, the government can never achieve true prosecution reform.