The court must hurry

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The court must hurry

Just two months after two revisions of laws aimed at taking away investigative powers from the prosecution, the Ministry of Justice and the top law enforcement agency lodged a complaint with the Constitutional Court to weigh the constitutionality of the revisions. The Democratic Party (DP) railroaded them through, and President Moon Jae-in endorsed them in his last Cabinet meeting in May. The complaint was filed by Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon, a close ally of President Yoon Suk-yeol.

As the People Power Party (PPP) already filed a complaint with the court shortly after the passage of the revisions, the top court will likely merge the two complaints into one. Because the revisions will go into effect on September 10, the court must hurry to reach a conclusion. Given the ongoing deliberations in the court and apparent unconstitutionality of the procedures of the DP, the court has no reason to delay judgment.

The DP ignored legitimate procedures required of legislation. It allowed one of its lawmakers to leave the party to help pass the revisions in a subcommittee of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee. The subcommittee passed the revisions in just 17 minutes after dismissing the requirements for maximum 90 days of deliberation. That’s not all. It took only eight minutes for the Legislation and Judiciary Committee to pass them. (The National Assembly Act mandates the committee to put any revisions to a vote 30 days after their passages in the subcommittee.) 

In a full vote in the legislature, the DP even deprived the PPP of its rights to filibuster to expedite the passage of the revisions before President Moon’s term expired. There was no debate and compromise on the explosive revisions, which can shake the foundations of the country’s 70-year modern judiciary system.

The contentious revisions contain much unconstitutionality. For example, if the police, which will become more powerful when they takes all investigative authority from the prosecution, unilaterally decide not to send a certain case to the prosecution, prosecutors cannot re-examine it. Also, prosecutors cannot directly investigate six major crimes except for corruption and economic crimes. That constitutes a critical infringement on people’s basic rights.

Another problem is the removal of the right of accusers to protest police investigations. As a result, ongoing investigations of the previous administration or future investigations of the current administration cannot proceed as expected.

It is the first time since 1990 that the executive branch and the legislative branch are battling one another over constitutionality of revisions. The time has come for the court to correct the shaken constitutional order.
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