Moon rejects prosecutor general's resignation
President Moon Jae-in rejected the protest resignation of Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo Monday, and offered a meeting instead.
Kim tendered his resignation Sunday in response to the ruling Democratic Party's (DP) legislative drive to abolish the state prosecution service’s remaining investigative powers, which he described last week as a change that would be “welcomed by criminals.”
The prosecutor general requested a meeting with the president last week but didn't get one.
At a Monday press briefing, Blue House spokesperson Park Kyung-mee said Moon decided to reject Kim’s resignation and instead meet with him later in the day.
A Blue House official who spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity said Moon rejected the resignation because Kim still has over a year remaining in his post at the top of the prosecution, and also because he wanted to hear Kim’s opinions on the DP's proposed reform bill.
The bill, which DP lawmakers last Tuesday agreed to push through the National Assembly before the end of Moon’s term on May 9, is the same as one President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol criticized when he announced his resignation as prosecutor general in March 2021.
The 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.
Kim previously served as vice justice minister under the Moon administration, and was appointed prosecutor general to replace Yoon in June. His two-year term expires next May.
Observers say that the president could be trying to prevent a disagreement between the prosecution service and the DP from becoming a full-blown political crisis — potentially triggering the mass resignation of senior prosecutors — in the last weeks of his term.
Kim vowed last week to resist the so-called reforms with all available measures, including a potential appeal to the Constitutional Court.
Since Moon 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 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.
When Kim requested a meeting with the president last week, a Blue House official deferred the issue to the National Assembly, saying, “Now is the time for legislation.”
DP lawmaker Park Ju-min, who chairs a subcommittee under the National Assembly’s Legislation and Judiciary Committee, was due to convene a meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to begin deliberations on the party’s bill, a revision to the Prosecutors’ Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act.
The DP plans to pass the bill during the April parliamentary session and have it promulgated into law during the last Cabinet meeting of the Moon administration on May 3.
“If we don’t get [the bill] passed in April, we believe we won’t get another chance in the future,” Park Hong-keun, the DP floor leader, told reporters Monday.
Given the People Power Party’s (PPP) strong opposition to the bill, Yoon is expected to veto the bill if the National Assembly passes it after the presidential handover.
“Everything has to align, from a government that won't exercise its veto, to the number of parliamentary seats that will enable passage through the National Assembly,” Park said.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]