Yoon’s transition team postpones Justice Ministry briefing
Just hours before the scheduled briefing, the transition team's subcommittee for political, judicial and administrative affairs informed the ministry that it wanted to push back the meeting to protest Justice Minister Park Beom-kye's objection to Yoon's judicial reform plans the previous day.
Park in a press conference Wednesday said that he is opposed to Yoon's plans to abolish the justice minister's authority to direct prosecutorial investigations. Yoon has also said he wants to empower the prosecution to draw up its own budget and expand its scope of investigations.
Main opposition People Power Party (PPP) Rep. Lee Yong-ho, head of the judicial affairs subcommittee, said during a press briefing Thursday morning that the transition team "couldn't contain its fury" at Minister Park's objection to Yoon's key campaign pledges.
He said, "It is rude and incomprehensible for a minister, who will resign after 40 days with the change in government, to directly oppose the promise of the president-elect selected by the people just one day before the ministry report."
The transition team asked the Justice Ministry to postpone the briefing because it was "meaningless" under the current circumstances and said that it was "necessary to have time to cool down and deliberate," according to Lee.
The judicial affairs subcommittee said it, not the president-elect, made the decision to call off the Justice Ministry briefing.
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo favors Yoon's judicial reform plans, diverging from the justice minister's stance. Consequently, the Justice Ministry and Supreme Prosecutors' Office briefings had unprecedentedly been expected to be held separately because of such differences.
The transition team's briefing with the Supreme Prosecutors' Office proceeded as scheduled on Thursday.
Yoon has pledged to restore public trust in the prosecution and strengthen its independence and political neutrality, and says that the justice minister's investigative authority undermines such a vision.
Yoon told reporters Thursday on his judicial reform pledges, "I think that giving independent authority contributes more to [the prosecution's] neutrality. It is not easy to expect neutrality without giving some amount of independence. And in actuality, there is not much need for the minister's right to direct investigations."
The transition team stressed that it will not favor the prosecution just because of Yoon's prosecutorial background. Yoon served as prosecutor general from 2019 to 2021 under the Moon Jae-in government and has often clashed with the current administration's prosecution reform plans.
Minister Park in his press conference Wednesday stressed that the justice minister's right to command such prosecutorial investigations is "based on democratic control of the prosecution and a principle of responsible administration" and is "still needed."
He continued, "How to ensure the fairness and political independence of the prosecution is more important," saying that improvement of the prosecution's institutionalization will naturally lead to resolving other issues. Likewise, he said that the prosecution's right to draw up its own budget could put into question transparency.
Rep. Shin Hyun-young, a spokesperson of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), said in a statement Thursday, "The public has demanded a system that can monitor and keep in check the unruly power of the prosecution, and the Moon Jae-in administration and the DP have tried to realize this through prosecutorial reform."
She said, "It is deplorable [for Yoon's transition team] to try to turn the clock backwards and turn the public's longing for prosecutorial reform into nothing."
A transition team spokesperson in turn accused the justice minister and the DP of trying to "sabotage" the transition process.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]