Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae hurled criticism at Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl with harsh words.
“Yoon brushed off half of my instructions,” she said Thursday, “If he had followed my orders humbly, things would have passed through calmly, but he bungled because of his petty pride of his authority to command investigations.”
Choo also said few justice ministers may have worked with a prosecutor general “as naughty as Yoon.”
Her remarks give the impression of a manager bullying her subordinate in a private company. They are unbecoming of a minister in charge of the rule of law.
She expressed anger at Yoon this way over two cases.
The ruling party suspects the prosecution of having incited perjury in a bribery case involving Han Myeong-sook who served late President Roh Moo-hyun as prime minister.
The Supreme Court found her guilty of accepting a bribe and she served out her sentence. But soon after the ruling party won a great majority in the April 15 general election, she claimed she had been falsely accused. Some ruling party lawmakers said reinvestigation and retrial are needed. Choo ordered the prosecution to reinvestigate Han’s case. Yoon assigned the reinvestigation to a human rights supervisor in the prosecution, while Choo wants an inspection team to take up the job.
A civic group supporting the ruling party accused a cable TV news reporter of conspiring with one of Yoon’s trusted prosecutors to incriminate Rhyu Si-min, who is a pro-Moon polemist and former health and welfare minister under Roh.
Her way of expression is not the only problem.
She said that even those without experience in the prosecution can reform the agency and that Rep. Hwang Un-ha of the ruling party is among those eligible for doing so.
Hwang has been indicted by the prosecution for intervening in the Ulsan mayoral election. The former chief of Ulsan police is suspected of having investigated an opposition party candidate upon orders from the presidential office seeking to get Moon’s friend of 30 years elected.
Her remark that an indicted suspect, of all people, and furthermore, a suspect who is a former police officer, can reform the prosecution appears intended to sneer at the prosecution and smother investigations of the alleged election intervention.
The apparent reason for her to deride the prosecutor general and the prosecution is that they investigated allegations against figures close to Moon.
Choo’s words seem to be in much the same vein as some ruling party lawmakers’ attacks on Yoon.
Former pro-Moon lawyers who led “Protect Cho Kuk” rallies criticized Yoon after being elected as ruling party lawmakers. Cho was appointed as Justice Minister but resigned amid investigations into allegations against his family. A senior lawmaker of the party said that “if I were Yoon, I would step down as prosecutor general.”
Prosecutor general is a post whose independence must be respected. Its two-year term is legally guaranteed in a bid to secure the impartiality of investigations. The ruling camp must stop shaking him.
Choo removed Han Dong-hoon, deputy head of the Busan High Prosecutors’ Office, from his duty Thursday. The prosecutor trusted by Yoon allegedly conspired with a cable television reporter who tried to get incriminating information on Rhyu. Han denies all allegations against himself, and the reporter says Han has nothing to do with the case. This case is currently under investigation by the prosecution.
Nevertheless, Choo ordered the ministry to inspect Han directly. A justice minister has rarely ordered a direct inspection of a prosecutor involved in a case being investigated. Her order is understood as a pressure on Yoon.
Moon told Yoon to investigate allegations against those close to him when he appointed him as prosecutor general. Then as the prosecution investigated them as Moon said, he broke up Yoon’s investigation teams through Justice Minister Choo who succeeded Cho.
For the ruling camp, rule of law and the neutrality of the prosecution seem to be a decoration it hangs only when they are favorable.