Picking a neutral prosecutor general

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Picking a neutral prosecutor general

The Ministry of Justice has formed a committee to screen and recommend candidates for the first prosecutor general under former chief prosecutor-turned-President Yoon Suk-yeol. The helm of the top law enforcement agency had been empty for more than two months since former prosecutor general Kim Oh-soo resigned after the launch of the Yoon administration.

The lengthy unnatural absence of a prosecutor general has stoked unnecessary speculations.

While the prosecution was headed by acting prosecutor general Lee Won-seok, deputy head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon implemented two large-scale reshuffles at the top law enforcement agency. The reshuffles by the justice minister caused controversy as he pushed ahead with the appointments of top prosecutors without consultations with a prosecutor general. Through the reshuffle, prosecutors, who had worked with Yoon when he was a top prosecutor dealing with special investigations, have come to dominate key posts.

The committee aimed at finding and recommending the best person to head the prosecution must pick candidates without political bias.

Under the Prosecution Act revised in 2011, a list of candidates should be recommended among law practitioners of a minimum 15 years by July 19. The justice minister can make his own recommendations beyond the shortlisted names drawn up by the committee comprised of nine members.

After the committee submits a list of more than three candidates to the justice minister, he finally recommends one of them to the president. If the president agrees, the candidate goes through a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly.

Kim Jin-tae, who headed the prosecution under former President Park Geun-hye, chairs the recommendation committee. He vowed to find someone with “determined devotion to the country and strong conviction to carry out duties with confidence and responsibility.”

Under the previous Moon Jae-in administration, prosecutors were mostly mobilized to investigate past government officials who had served the conservative Park and Lee Myung-bak administrations. In the later stage, the prosecution was criticized for dilly-dallying in investigations on the sitting power. The prosecution under President Yoon must set a new precedent.

The prosecution faces major changes with its diminished investigative authority as a result of the Democratic Party’s push to take it away from the prosecution and hand it over to the police. The time has come for a new prosecutor general to stand tough in the middle.
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