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Choo hits back at chief prosecutor

Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae attends the parliamentary audit of the Ministry of Justice on Monday. (Yonhap)
Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae attends the parliamentary audit of the Ministry of Justice on Monday. (Yonhap)
The Ministry of Justice is looking into allegations that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl met with heads of major conservative dailies, as well as developments that led to an investigation into alleged financial fraud being terminated.

Speaking at the parliamentary audit of her ministry, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae said that the allegation that Yoon met with the largest shareholders of two leading conservative dailies will be looked into as such actions could violate prosecutors’ code of conduct.

At last week’s parliamentary audit of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, it was alleged that Yoon met with the newspaper executives. Yoon declined to respond to related questions, saying he cannot confirm that such meetings took place without the consent of other parties involved.

It was also alleged that Yoon may have had a hand in the investigation into the investment fund Optimus being terminated while he served as the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office. The fund has since become the center of a controversy that has prompted the opposition bloc to call to launch an independent counsel investigation.

At Monday’s parliamentary audit, Choo also hit back at Yoon’s comments from the previous week, claiming that many of his statements were “unsuitable to democracy.”

Last week, Yoon made a number of comments with references to Choo and President Moon Jae-in, including that the prosecutor general is not a subordinate of the justice minister, and that Moon had asked him to see through his term as the chief prosecutor.

“In that Prosecutor General Yoon’s many statements are unsuitable to democracy, it is very regrettable and (I) will properly monitor and guide (Yoon) in the future,” Choo said.

Choo went on to bring Yoon’s political neutrality into question when asked about the wreaths from Yoon’s supporters being lined up outside the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

“It is very regrettable that (Yoon) is being dragged into the swamp of politics when the prosecutor general must lead the organization neutrally,” Choo said.

Regarding Yoon’s claims that Choo unjustly exercised her authority to intervene in investigations, Choo defended her move, saying she was operating within the law, and went on to hit back at Yoon for the use of the word “subordinate” and comments regarding Moon.

According to Yoon, Moon asked him to see through his term and to fulfill his duties through an “appropriate messenger.”

“President Moon does not bypass official reporting channels to deliver a message through unofficial channels,” Choo said, describing Yoon’s decision to make the claim as “very inappropriate.”

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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