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Minister accuses prosecutors of deceiving public in fund scandal

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (left) and Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (left) and Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)

The conflict between the country’s justice minister and the chief prosecutor intensified Wednesday, with the minister accusing the prosecution of “deceiving the public” with its probe of a high-profile fund scam scandal.

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae said that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl should have apologized over prosecutors’ unfair investigative practices when they looked into a key suspect in the Lime Asset Management fund scam, who last week delivered the bombshell revelation that he’d bribed prosecutors and an opposition lawmaker for favors.

The minister said prosecutors conducted excessive and biased interrogations during the probe of Lime Asset in order to frame ruling party lawmakers and other liberal politicians, criticizing the prosecutors for reneging on their promise to improve the investigation system.

“I hope that they would take the prosecution reform seriously for once. I’m greatly disappointed as such expectation and trust have broken down,” Choo said via a Facebook post Wednesday.

Prosecutors have called in Kim Bong-hyun, former chairman of Star Mobility, who is believed to be the main financial backer of Lime Asset Management, 66 times since he was arrested April 23.

Although Kim testified that political figures from both the ruling and opposition parties had taken bribes from the hedge fund, suspicions involving politicians from the conservative bloc and state prosecutors were not passed along to the Justice Ministry.

“The prosecutor general should have apologized and introspected himself as a commander of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, which deceived the public,” Choo said.

As part of President Moon Jae-in’s prosecution reform drive, a joint task force set up by the Ministry of Justice and the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office said in September that it would limit repeated summons of inmates and prevent unfair coaxing and coercion during interrogations.

Choo added that the opposition party and the media should criticize the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office before reproaching her for restricting the prosecutor general’s authority based on the testimony of Kim, who is often depicted as a con man.

Her remarks came after she directed two prosecutors’ offices on Monday not to take orders from Prosecutor General Yoon on the Lime case, but to only report the results of the investigation to him. Yoon’s Supreme Prosecutors’ Office accepted the order.

A poll released by Realmeter on Wednesday showed that public opinion was evenly divided on Choo’s intervention in the fraud case, with 46.4 percent supporting her decision and another 46.4 percent viewing it negatively.

By Park Han-na (