A dangerous rushThe push by the ruling Democratic Party (DP) for the establishment of an extraordinary agency devoted to investigating six types of crime, including abuse of power and corruption, is going too far. The DP’s attempt not only reflects a conflict of interest and self-contradiction, but also is dismissive of President Moon Jae-in’s instruction not to press it too fast. The DP and Blue House have so far acted in a concerted manner over prosecution reforms, a core agenda of the liberal Moon administration. With one year left until the president steps down, however, the DP is taking a path drastically different from the Blue House.
Appearing on the Legislation and Judiciary Committee in the National Assembly on Monday, Justice Minister Park Beom-kye said the president had ordered him to “settle the newly redistributed investigative rights between the prosecution and the police” and “reinforce law enforcement agencies’ capability to investigate crimes involving corruption.” Moon’s message relayed by the justice minister translates into a hope for settlement of the redistributed investigative authority that only allows the prosecution to deal with the six major types of crime. In other words, Moon ordered the justice minister not to press ahead with the establishment of a special investigation agency that would take away the rights to investigate the six major crimes from the prosecution.
But the DP immediately accelerated its move to launch the extra investigation agency to deal with the six types of crime. A group of first-term lawmakers from the DP and Open Democratic Party, a satellite of the DP, on Tuesday called for the quick establishment of the agency. One of them stressed the need to “set it up as soon as possible,” while another lawmaker championed the “establishment of the agency during the remainder of Moon’s term.”
Despite the president’s opposition to the early establishment of the special investigation agency, DP lawmakers are intent on pushing it. They took the action after the prosecution requested an arrest warrant for former Energy Minister Paik Un-gyu on charges of ordering his subordinates to delete sensitive files on the government’s plan to phase out nuclear reactors. To put it simply, the DP lawmakers want to prevent the top law enforcement agency from digging up dirt on them.
If the prosecution retains its right to probe corruption and abuse of power by DP lawmakers, many of them under investigation or to be investigated must live in fear even after Moon steps down next year. That can explain their rush to enact a bill aimed at blocking the prosecution from looking into their problems as early as possible. But such a remarkable discrepancy between the DP and Blue House will only help advance Moon’s lame duck period.