The Korea Herald


Moon-Yoon strife continues

Yoon at odds with Justice Ministry over judicial reform

By Shin Ji-hye

Published : March 24, 2022 - 15:15

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President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap) President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol (Yonhap)
Friction between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol appears to be intensifying, with the two sides openly criticizing one another. 

Since the presidential election earlier this month, Moon and Yoon have been at odds over multiple issues, such as the relocation of the presidential office and appointment of high-ranking officials, including the governor of the Bank of Korea.

A meeting between Moon and Yoon has still not taken place, marking the most prolonged delay between a president and his elected successor. There is also the unprecedented possibility that the two will not meet, if the conflict continues.

On Thursday morning, Moon expressed frustration through the Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson over the delay to the meeting.

“I’m saying this out of frustration,” Moon said. “I haven’t heard that the president-elect needs negotiations and conditions to visit the president. What kind of negotiation is needed for the two to meet and greet each other?”

Moon urged Yoon to make a decision himself instead of listening to others. 

Within two hours, Yoon’s side released a written brief to refute Moon’s claim.

Kim Eun-hye, a spokesperson for the president-elect, said, “It is regrettable over Moon’s remarks that Yoon Suk-yeol’s judgment is problematic and as if his aides were blurring the president-elect’s judgment.”

She also blamed Moon’s recent appointment of the governor of the Bank of Korea.

“The personnel Moon will appoint now are the people the new president will work with, not the president who is about to retire,” Kim said.

She said Yoon’s government would not appoint personnel after his successor is decided. “After the presidential election, it is customary and reasonable (for the current government) to halt appointing new personnel as much as possible and cooperate with the (incoming) government to start new state affairs with new personnel.”

The presidential transition committee also canceled a scheduled meeting to receive work reports from the Ministry of Justice on the same day, and criticized the minister for opposition to Yoon’s judicial reform plans.

“We notified the Ministry of Justice of postponing the work report scheduled this morning. We thought it was meaningless and necessary to have time to ponder,” the transition committee told reporters Thursday.

They criticized Justice Minister Park Beom-Kye, saying, “It is rude and incomprehensible that the minister, who will leave office in days due to regime change, is directly opposed to (Yoon’s pledges) a day before the work report,” adding they were “furious” with him.

The issue that the two collided head-on about is whether to abolish the justice minister’s rights to command an investigation over the prosecutor general. The abolition was a key judicial reform pledge of former Prosecutor General Yoon.

Current Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo is said to be in favor of Yoon’s pledge, while Park was opposed to it.

Park told reporters Wednesday that the Justice Minister’s right to command such an investigation is based on democratic control of the prosecution and the principle of responsible administration, and that it is “still needed.”

“The more important issue is how to ensure the political neutrality and fairness of the prosecution,” Park said. “If these are institutionalized and the organizational culture of the prosecution is improved accordingly, the issue of commanding an investigation will be resolved naturally.”

Regarding Yoon’s pledge to give the prosecution the right to draw up its own budget, Park said the issue is intertwined with transparency and supervision of cost execution, including special activity expenses and coordination of the prosecution office of the Ministry of Justice.

“I think it’s a matter that requires legislation,” Park added.