DP lawmakers try to decide on bill to curb prosecution
Lawmakers from the liberal Democratic Party (DP) gathered Tuesday to decide whether to push through a bill to abolish the prosecution's investigative powers entirely.
Although they didn't reach a decision by press time, DP Chairman Yun Ho-jung said Tuesday that the party intends to pass a bill stripping the state prosecution service of its investigative power and have it signed by outgoing President Moon Jae-in early next month.
Speaking on a radio program, Yun said the party aimed to use its super-majority of 172 seats in the 300-member National Assembly to clear all legislative procedures for the bill so that it can be voted on and promulgated into law at a Cabinet meeting scheduled for May 3, before the presidency is handed over to President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol of the conservative People Power Party (PPP).
“The way not to miss the opportunity is to completely reform the prosecution before the inauguration of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol,” Yun said.
With less than a month before the May 10 inauguration of Yoon, a former prosecutor general, the DP recently hastened its attempts to complete prosecutorial reforms, refocusing on a bill to completely strip the prosecution of its investigative powers — the same bill that Yoon protested when he announced his resignation as prosecutor general in March 2021.
Since Moon took office in May 2017, his administration and ruling DP have pushed forward a series of so-called reforms to weaken the prosecution service. The DP at the end of 2020 rammed through a bill to establish the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) and give more power to the National Police Agency, limiting the scope of investigations that can be conducted by the prosecution.
While Yoon has not called for complete abolition of the CIO like some PPP members had, he did call for an abolition of Article 24 of the CIO law, which grants the CIO authority to demand the prosecution and police hand over cases, as one of his campaign pledges.
The DP views the complete abolition of the state prosecution service’s rights to conduct investigations as a necessary reform of the agency, which has long faced accusations of partiality by conducting probes into high-profile politicians.
However, the PPP has accused the DP of pursuing prosecution reform to prevent investigations into its own members, including into a controversy surrounding official expenses filed by the DP’s presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung and his wife Kim Hye-kyung.
One probe by the state prosecution service in 2016, led by Yoon, effectively brought about the downfall of conservative former President Park Geun-hye on charges of nepotism and being an accomplice to bribery, while another investigation by Yoon torpedoed the political career of liberal icon Cho Kuk, who served as Moon's justice minister for less than a month before escalating allegations of academic fraud by his daughter forced his resignation.
Speaking a day after he said his position would be rendered “without meaning” if the reform bill is passed, Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo called on the DP on Tuesday to make a “wise decision.”
“I am waiting for [the DP] to make a wise decision for the people and the country’s future,” Kim told reporters on his way to work at the Supreme Prosecutors Office in Seocho District, southern Seoul in the morning. “That is my fervent hope.”
On Monday, Kim warned that stripping the prosecution of its remaining investigative powers would result in criminals not being punished and an increase in the suffering of victims of crime.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]