Not the time to play politicsPresident Yoon Suk-yeol appointed Justice Minister Han Doon-hoon despite objections from the Democratic Party (DP).
Although it is a presidential prerogative, the move came just a day after Yoon vowed to respect the National Assembly and emphasized cooperative politics. He has given the DP an excuse to attack him for being self-contradictory. There are both concerns about and expectations for the new justice minister. He will be making prosecutorial appointments first.
The appointments are usually made through discussions between the Justice Ministry and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office. But this time around, the decision could be entirely Han’s as the prosecutor general seat is vacant and there is not more presidential secretary of civil affairs, a position Yoon scrapped.
Han teamed up with Yoon in past investigations of government wrongdoings. He was demoted and transferred after he spearheaded investigations into the family of Cho Kuk, a former justice minister and key aide to former President Moon Jae-in.
He was investigated on a charge of colluding with a TV reporter to frame figures close to the ruling camp.
Although investigators found him innocent, higher level officials at the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office ignored their report. The sword is in the hands of someone who was made a victim of retaliatory appointments.
Many could fear a vengeful streak considering his history with the Moon government. Yoon’s allies are now sweeping into important jobs. Prosecutors who were demoted in punishment for investigating figures connected to the powers that be should be compensated to some extent.
But if such a move is excessive, a backlash is inevitable. A revenge streak could arise every time a leader from a new party takes office, which would be a tragedy for the nation and its people. The right person must be seated in the right position based on strict guidelines and principles to end such a vicious cycle.
During a legislative confirmation hearing, Han promised to make appointments based on the prosecutor’s ability and fairness. Regions and genders also must be considered.
Han must reorganize the prosecution service before laws stripping its investigative powers take effect on Sept. 10 to prevent a void in criminal investigations. He must keep his promise to avoid political considerations regarding appointments and investigations.