Abuse of powerThe Justice Ministry led by Park Beom-gye and the prosecution headed by Kim Oh-soo have gone too far. We wonder if they are abusing their power to retaliate against prosecutors who worked under former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl — now the presidential candidate of the opposition People Power Party (PPP) — for their investigations of pro-government officials before Yoon resigned in March.
On Monday, the news broke that the Office of Inspector in the Justice Ministry had requested a department handling a judicial procedure in the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office submit prosecutors’ investigation records on the subject of corruption by former Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s family to help his daughter get into a top college. The ministry based its request on the need to see if the prosecutors conducted a biased probe into an allegation by a high school friend against Cho’s daughter. But that’s hardly convincing.
The push for an inspection by the Justice Ministry and the prosecution is understandable as they want to find dirt on the former prosecutor general after he became presidential candidate of the PPP. The inspector at the Justice Ministry is Lim Eun-jeong, a pro-government prosecutor. Another case on the Cho family’s suspicious investment in a private equity fund is being inspected by the Seoul High Prosecutors’ Office led by Lee Sung-yoon, also a pro-government prosecutor. Inspector Lim cited the need to find out why the investigation was only focused on the Cho family, not many figures behind the suspicious fund. That’s not persuasive either. Actually, it was the current leadership of the prosecution that rejected a request to assign more prosecutors to clear the suspicion.
An inspection of a team of prosecutors over their investigation into the alleged fabrication of the results of a study on economic feasibility of the Wolseong 1 reactor is being handled by the Inspection Department at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. (The investigation was originally ordered by Justice Minister Park.) Lawmakers from the ruling Democratic Party (DP) raised the suspicion that the PPP has asked a civic group to accuse senior officials in the Ministry of Energy of manipulating the results of the feasibility study. The head of the Inspection Department in the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office is Han Dong-soo, who was appointed by Justice Minister Cho. Han repeatedly clashed with then-Prosecutor General Yoon over sensitive cases.
On Friday, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) raided the inspection department of the Supreme Prosecutors’ㅒOffice and took away its forensic identification results of an official smartphone used by a spokesperson of the prosecutors’ office to look into past conversations between him and reporters. A bigger problem is the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office acting to seize the phone without getting a court-issued warrant — and without the presence of the spokesperson.
Government agencies can use the power to inspect civil servants when suspicious behavior is found. The power should be strictly used. The Justice Ministry and the prosecution’s indiscriminate inspection cannot happen in a democracy.
Their over-the-top actions suggest the administration’s crusade to clean up the prosecution has failed.