Ruling, opposition parties accept speaker’s deal on prosecution reform bill
National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug submitted to the rival parties an eight-point proposal on prosecution reform Friday morning after gathering opinions from floor leadership, former National Assembly speakers, government officials and related experts.
Park's proposal calls for the separation of prosecutors' powers of direct investigation and indictment, with the prosecution temporarily maintaining its investigative rights.
It also allows prosecutors' investigation rights to cover two types of major crimes, dealing with corruption and economic crimes, reducing the number from the current six.
Park proposed that if other investigative authorities' improve their capabilities to a "certain level," then the prosecution's investigative power should be abolished.
The plan calls for reducing the number of special investigative departments in the prosecution from the current six to three and limiting the number of prosecutors in the remaining departments.
The speaker also proposed a special judicial reform committee to discuss forming a major criminal investigative agency like the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The ruling Democratic Party (DP) has pushed for amendments to the Prosecutors' Office Act and the Criminal Procedure Act as a part of efforts to strip the state prosecution service of its investigative powers, which critics say have been abused to conduct probes of political rivals or enemies of the ruling party. The DP's prosecution reform bill resulted in strong backlash from the main opposition People Power Party (PPP) and prosecutors alike.
Park said he held multiple late-night meetings with the rival parties' leadership and urged the DP and PPP to accept his proposal, while admitting it was a compromise and that "no one side will be completely satisfied."
"I once again appeal to the National Assembly to resolve the problem of prosecutorial reform and return to the urgent matter of people's livelihood," Park said in a press briefing on his proposal.
The set of reform bills are expected to be put to vote in a plenary session of the National Assembly later this month and will be implemented four months after their promulgation.
Later Friday, the floor leaders of both parties said they decided to accept the National Assemly speaker's compromise deal in a show of parliamentary cooperation.
Rep. Kweon Seong-dong, the PPP floor leader, said that his party after a general meeting decided to accept the deal mediated by Park.
"The speaker's proposal is one that the floor leaders of the two sides have agreed upon in our previous three or four meetings," said Kweon, pointing to a "spirit of joint governance."
Soon after, Rep. Park Hong-keun, the DP floor leader, said his party also decided to accept the speaker's compromise deal, but added, "It is difficult to say that our views were fully reflected. However, we decided to supplement insufficient parts of the proposal later on."
He stressed that three areas important to the DP were reflected in the proposal: the separation of investigative and indictment powers; passing the reform bills in the National Assembly in April; and the establishment of a Korean-style FBI.
Choi Ji-hyeon, a deputy spokesperson of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol's transition team, said in a briefing Friday, "The transition committee respects the fact that the compromise proposal was accepted by the floor leaderships."
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo again offered to resign Friday to take responsibility, soon after the DP and PPP agreed to the compromise deal, said the Supreme Prosecutors' Office. Six other regional prosecutor chiefs, including Lee Sung-yoon, head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, also tendered their resignations en masse the same day to protest the reform bill.
Kim previously tendered his resignation last Sunday in protest of the DP's prosecution reform bill but withdrew the offer after a meeting with President Moon Jae-in, who asked him to serve out his term.
BY SARAH KIM [firstname.lastname@example.org]