Time to start all over

Home > Opinion > Editorials

print dictionary print

Time to start all over

Last Friday’s bipartisan compromise on a bill cutting back on the investigative powers of the prosecution has been scorned by prosecutors and the general public. They find it to be a prime example of political deal-making. Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo and heads of high prosecutors’ offices condemned the compromise for “merely delaying” the emasculation of the prosecution, and all of them resigned.

Under the compromise mediated by National Assembly speaker Park Byeong-seug, the prosecution would be left with investigative authority in only two areas — corruption and the economy — while losing the remaining four areas involving public office holders, elections, defense procurements and major disasters. But the two remaining areas would have to be surrendered to the new serious crime investigation agency when it is launched.

Under the agreement, prosecutors could not investigate crimes related to elections and public office holders from September. These investigations would have targeted lawmakers, government officials and presidential staff under charges of irregularities and corruption. They were supposed to stop the powers that be from falling into the temptation of wrongdoing. These two investigative powers are likely feared by both the outgoing and incoming powers. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) was suspected of trying to strip the prosecution of its investigative authority to protect President Moon Jae-in and former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung from investigations.

The incoming Yoon Suk-yeol administration also would be safe from prosecutorial probes later if prosecutors lose their power to look into his friends’ possible crimes. Pundits called it a not very admirable compromise between the DP and the opposition People Power Party (PPP). Lawyer Kim Ye-won, head of the Disability and Human Rights Center, said the compromise was political collusion to stop investigations of politicians without any regard to civic interests that make up 99 percent of prosecutorial cases. She said the criminal justice system had been victimized by legislative deal-making.

The move could cause serious disruptions and confusion due to the vacuum of investigative authority on any illegalities related to the June 1 local elections. The ongoing investigation of the industry ministry’s blacklisting allegation and power abuse or negligence of duty by government employees could also be stalled. The weakening of criminal investigative power could work disadvantageously for a multitude of civilians.

PPP floor leader Kwon Seong-dong, who led the compromise, claimed he had to give in under the DP’s pressure. Upon being criticized, he apologized for failing to uphold the greater interests of the public. Ahn Cheol-soo, the chairman of the presidential transition team, said that politicians excluding themselves from prosecutorial probes caused a conflict of interest. PPP leader Lee Jun-seok promised to re-examine the bill. The DP also must revisit the issue.
Log in to Twitter or Facebook account to connect
with the Korea JoongAng Daily
help-image Social comment?
lock icon

To write comments, please log in to one of the accounts.

Standards Board Policy (0/250자)