Moon’s dangerous perceptionIn his final meeting with the press on Monday, outgoing President Moon Jae-in approved the bipartisan agreement on two revised bills outlining a phased stripping of investigative powers from the prosecution. Moon said the compromised outline under the mediation of National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug “was a good one,” as if to give permission to the ruling Democratic Party (DP) to push ahead with the controversial revisions despite the opposition People Power Party (PPP)’s reversal of its position after striking the deal.
The PPP requested for a renegotiation to leave crimes related to elections and public office holders with the prosecution. But the DP held a subcommittee meeting of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to push for the original outline.
President Moon said that the compromised outline could displease the prosecution and cause inconvenience for ordinary people, but would eventually work out. He said that the top law enforcement authority will be able to continue its investigations into corruption and economic crimes and also could instruct the police to conduct further investigations into cases involving government employees and election crimes while reviewing an arrest warrant or indictment.
But his remarks are not appropriate.
First of all, Moon is not irrelevant to the bills. When the bills pass the legislature, prosecutors cannot look into crimes of public office holders. The investigations on the energy ministry’s alleged blacklisting and the presidential office’s apparent meddling in the economic evaluation of the Wolseong nuclear reactors could be disrupted. The cases would have to be referred to the police four months after the law goes into effect. Since the presidential office’s intervention in the Ulsan mayoral election in 2018 is an election-related case, the case also would have to be handed over to the police. Moon’s approval of the bills will only add suspicion about the motive of the bills.
Moon previously said that prosecutorial reforms should not weaken the nation’s investigative powers on corruption. But the rapid transition has already caused an overload of work for the police. Moon actually contended that the revisions for the police to gain more power than before should be for the people while persuading Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo from resigning in protest.
Moon’s backing of the bills will aggravate the ongoing conflict in the National Assembly and affect the confirmation hearing on prime minister nominee Han Duck-soo. President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol must clarify his position on the bill if he really does not condone the two bills that can protect him and the incoming government from prosecutorial probes later.