Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo submits resignation
The chief of the state prosecution service submitted his resignation Sunday to protest the ruling Democratic Party's (DP) push to strip the law enforcement agency of its investigative powers.
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo issued a statement after tendering his resignation saying he bore responsibility for the ruling party's legislative drive to defang the state prosecution service.
In the statement, he apologized to the people and prosecutors for the ongoing political conflict and turmoil surrounding the push to "completely deprive the prosecution of investigative powers," as the DP has described the issue.
Since President Moon Jae-in took office in May 2017, his administration and ruling DP have pushed a series of so-called reforms to weaken the power of state-run agencies, particularly the prosecution service.
Reform of the prosecution service took on greater importance in the eyes of the ruling party after the powerful law enforcement agency initiated several probes into key figures close to the president.
One investigation greenlit by then-Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol torpedoed the political career of liberal icon Cho Kuk, Moon's presidential secretary for civil affairs who served as justice minister for less than a month before escalating allegations of academic fraud by his daughter forced his resignation.
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 prosecutors.
The prosecution reform bill would bring about the complete abolition of the prosecution's remaining investigative powers, which critics say have been abused to conduct probes of political rivals or enemies of the party in power.
The prosecution reform bill proposed by the DP, which its lawmakers on Tuesday agreed to push through the National Assembly, is the same as one Yoon criticized when he announced his resignation as prosecutor general in March 2021.
Given his party's strong opposition to the bill, Yoon is expected to veto the bill if the National Assembly passes it after the presidential handover.
In his statement, Kim said he hopes that his resignation will prompt lawmakers to re-examine the highly sensitive issue, calling it a matter that requires public consensus through hearings and an agreement between the ruling and opposition parties.
"Reform of the criminal justice system, which greatly affects people's human rights, is only appropriate after a public discussion lasting at least 10 years," Kim said. "In this case, public hearings and opinion gathering are essential to form a picture of people's views, as is a political consensus between the ruling and opposition parties."
Kim previously served as vice justice minister under the Moon administration, and was appointed prosecutor general to replace Yoon in June. His term was due to end in May next year.
BY MICHAEL LEE [firstname.lastname@example.org]