The Korea Herald


Prosecution stands against Justice Ministry ahead of Yoon administration

Justice minister should be stripped of power to lead investigations, it argues

By Ko Jun-tae

Published : March 22, 2022 - 12:48

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Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo is reporting to work Monday at the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul. (Yonhap) Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo is reporting to work Monday at the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul. (Yonhap)
The prosecution appears to be on a collision course with the Ministry of Justice on how the new administration should lead the agency and what rights should be given for the ministry in overseeing the prosecution.

Sources said Tuesday the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office recently submitted a report to the Ministry of Justice asking the justice minister to be stripped of its power to lead prosecutorial investigations. The report was filed ahead of the ministry’s meeting with the presidential transition committee scheduled for Thursday.

The top office for the prosecution claimed in the report that giving the justice minister power to effectively control the prosecution beyond its right to control appointments and supervise undermines the prosecution’s independence and political neutrality.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office also requested some prosecutorial offices be given power to initiate their own investigations, objecting to the limitations imposed on the prosecution’s investigative authority brought under the prosecutorial reform efforts from the Moon Jae-in administration.

The prosecution essentially sided with President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, a former prosecutor-general, who has vowed to strip the power of leading investigations from the justice minister. It is at odds with Justice Minister Park Beom-kye who has argued that the power stay within the role to ensure that the prosecution’s investigations stay fair and impartial.

Yoon has also pledged to grant the prosecution more authority in carrying out investigations and introduce measures that would see the prosecution fully independent from the influence of incumbent administrations and other political forces.

Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo approved filing the report to the Justice Ministry, showing that he also agrees with Yoon’s campaign promises even though Kim was appointed as Yoon’s successor during the Moon administration.

Kim has had to fend off pressure from Yoon and his affiliated People Power Party to resign before Yoon starts his term in May. The prosecutor general’s term ends in 2023, and Kim has signaled that he intends to finish his term.

Some pundits view that Kim’s move is a sign that he is willing to welcome the new administration and cooperate with Yoon as the leader of the prosecution. He could be inclined to change his stance and stand against what the Moon administration has pushed for in welcoming Yoon, who once was his superior in the prosecution, they said.

Yet the pledges concerning the prosecution that Yoon laid out during his campaign would require legislative fixes, which is highly unlikely to get through the National Assembly when 170 out of 300 legislative seats are controlled by the liberal Democratic Party of Korea.