How to go against the tideDespite the People Power Party (PPP)’s strong opposition to appointing former Vice Justice Minister Kim Oh-soo as prosecutor general, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) unilaterally adopted a report required of top government office seekers at a Legislation and Judiciary Committee meeting in the National Assembly. On Monday morning, committee members of the DP one-sidedly endorsed the report in just three minutes followed by President Moon Jae-in’s approval of the report in the evening.
The legislative committee held a confirmation hearing on the prosecutor general nominee last month, but could not reach a conclusion due to fierce disagreement over what questions to ask him. After the opposition demanded a resumption of the confirmation hearing, the ruling party refused it and instead urged the PPP to adopt a report endorsing Kim’s nomination. As the deadline for the Assembly’s submission of the report to the president arrived Monday, the DP convened a committee meeting on its own and adopted the report.
The way DP Chairman Song Young-gil behaved in the process was very disappointing. He said most of the suspicions regarding Kim were effectively addressed in the confirmation hearing despite a critical lack of witnesses to testify against the nominee. That’s not all. The DP leader nonchalantly embraced the nominee after strong suspicion arose over Kim’s alleged pressure for his son to be hired by a state-run research institute in 2017 when he was head of the Seoul Northern District Prosecutors’ Office. DP leader Song should have acted carefully given the younger generation’s simmering outrage over unfair college admissions and hiring.
In the confirmation hearing on May 26, the prosecutor general nominee also could not clear the lingering suspicion that he raked in a huge amount of commissions by defending the defendants in the Lime and Optimus Asset Management Funds scam. If he is appointed top prosecutor, can prosecutors under his command deal with cases fairly?
The DP cited the long vacancy of the post of prosecutor general as the reason for its push to endorse the nominee. However, legal circles are more concerned about the prosecution’s potential misuse of its investigative rights down the road than about the empty seat in the top law enforcement agency. They also worry about the possibility of Kim trying to block investigations of the powers that be. If Kim is really appointed a prosecutor general, he would do it in the name of prosecution reforms.
After Moon’s approval of the report, Kim has become the 33rd ministerial-level official appointed without a consent from the opposition. The president threw cold water on the people’s hope for co-governance.