The Korea Herald


Police take step back

Gov. hints at reforming police university, whose graduates seen to lead collective backlash against new bureau

By Im Eun-byel

Published : July 27, 2022 - 15:02

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Police officers in front of the National Police Agency in Seoul (Yonhap) Police officers in front of the National Police Agency in Seoul (Yonhap)

The police are taking a step back from a confrontation with the government over the launch of a police bureau under the Interior Ministry, withdrawing its plan to hold a large-scale meeting and instead calling for legislative efforts to deter the move.

Kim Seong-jong, a senior inspector at Gwangjin Police Station in Seoul, who called for a meeting of police officers this weekend, withdrew the suggestion Wednesday.

“The launch of the police bureau has been confirmed as the decree has passed the Cabinet meeting Tuesday,” Kim wrote on the police network platform.

“Expressing ourselves in the name of the police can help relieve pressure, but it can also cause worries and overwhelm the community, thus making us the subject of criticism. I withdraw the call for the meeting of 140,000 police officers,” Kim continued.

“I believe the national assembly will correct the illegal launch legislatively,” Kim wrote.

Interior Minister Lee welcomed the withdrawal.

“I just heard about the withdrawal of the meeting. It is very fortunate,” Lee told the press on his way to the government complex in Seoul. “The 140,000 police officers and I should cooperate to resolve all misunderstandings and conflicts to serve the people.”

Kim’s post was in line with that of superintendent Ryu Sam-yeong, who also suggested calling off the meeting and letting the National Assembly handle the situation. Ryu was ordered to go on stand-by after suggesting a meeting of superintendents last week.

“We cannot make people worry anymore,” Ryu wrote on the police platform Tuesday. “I believe the National Assembly will continue the discussion to control the police in democracy.”

The National Police Agency has also started to gather feedback from police officers about the launch, in response to the criticism on the lack of communication.

Some police officers, however, are continuing to call for a meeting. The meeting may be held on Saturday as scheduled but with fewer in attendance.

The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea has been arguing it is illegal to launch the police bureau through an enforcement decree without a revision of the Government Organization Act. To stop the launch, which is less than a week away, it may call for an adjudication of competence dispute at the Constitutional Court.

Also, the National Assembly Act states the Standing Committee can call for the government to make corrections on an illegal or unjustifiable presidential decree and request the government to file a report with the National Assembly.

Opposition parties are even discussing the impeachment of Interior Minister Lee Sang-min, who labeled the backlash from the police to be a “coup d’etat.”

Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry has brought up the subject of National Police University reform in response to the opposition from the police.

Lee mentioned most of the police officers who are leading the opposition movement against the launch of the bureau are from the National Police University, and it is “inappropriate” for officers from a certain background to act as a group.

“Though the university can nurture advanced talents, it is unfair that the graduates can start their careers as inspectors without further evaluation,” Lee said at a press briefing held Tuesday.

“The system, which allows some to start their careers in leading roles because they graduate from a certain university while others cannot, is a problem,” he said.

Lee’s call for a reform of the state-run elite university is likely to be a reflection of the president’s request. According to spokesperson Kang In-sun, the president called for Lee to solve the unfairness in the police personnel system Tuesday.

Yoon pledged to include more police officers not from the university for higher posts within the police during his presidential campaign.

Lee, however, denied mentioning the need for reform in response to the recent conflict between the government and the police regarding the launch, saying the reform has been part of the agendas drawn up by the police reform advisory.

By Im Eun-byel (