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Nomination adds fuel to prosecution row

Top prosecutor doubles down on protecting investigative powers; ruling party lashes out at justice minister pick

Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo. Yonhap
Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo. Yonhap
The ruling and opposition parties are clashing over a plan to strip prosecutors of their investigative powers and the new administration’s nominee for justice minister.

On Thursday, Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo met Park Kwang-on, head of the parliament’s legislation and judiciary committee, to express objection to the ruling party’s move to enact legislation to deprive it of its remaining investigative powers.

During the meeting, held hours before the legislation committee’s plenary session, Kim called on Park to “fully discuss and review various problems caused by the bill” such as institutional and budget aspects at the judiciary committee.

“If the prosecution’s investigation function is completely abolished, criminals will be happy and victims of crime will be unhappy,” Kim told reporters prior to the meeting. “If there is a problem with the fairness or neutrality of the prosecution investigation, a special law can be created to correct only that part.”

Kim Oh-soo declared a de facto all-out war against the Democratic Party of Korea, which had confirmed that the party platform was “to deprive the prosecution of its investigative power.”

Kim said he would block the overhaul by any means possible in the legislative process, including proposing a presidential veto and constitutional complaints. He formally requested a meeting with President Moon Jae-in in relation to protecting investigative powers.

President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol did not directly speak about the matter, but he nominated his closest confidant and senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon as the minister of justice, in a move interpreted by some as aimed at deterring the Democratic Party’s push. After the nomination, Han said, “If the bill is passed, the people will suffer greatly,” adding, “It must stop.”

At the plenary meeting of the judiciary committee the same day, the ruling and opposition parties clashed over the prosecution’s investigative power and the nomination of the Justice Minister.

The People Power Party strongly criticized the Democratic Party’s push for a bill depriving the prosecution of its investigative power. It said that the ruling party’s push for the bill when the regime ends is an attempt to cover up the corruption of the Moon Jae-in government and the case of preferential treatment for the development of Daejang-dong involving former presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung.

The Democratic Party denounced the nomination of Han Dong-hoon as justice minister. It said that appointing Han was a declaration of war against the National Assembly and foreshadowed political retaliation.

Since the appointment on Wednesday afternoon, the Democratic Party has been pressing to withdraw the nomination.

In an interview with TBS Radio on Thursday, Yoon Ho-joong, Democratic Party’s interim chief, said the appointment is “a kind of declaration of war by Yoon Suk-yeol against the National Assembly.”

Upon the announcement a day before, Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party, called it “personnel terrorism against the people,” saying, “It was publicly declaring (Yoon’s) intention to create a prosecutor’s republic in front of the public.”

Rep. Kim Jong-min of the Democratic Party saw the appointment of a prosecutor to the post to be “the same as making a military man the defense minister.” He said the justice minister, who supervises the prosecution on behalf of the public, “should be appointed outside the prosecution.”

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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