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Top prosecutors continue discussion on opposing prosecution reform bill

View of the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, on Monday. (Yonhap)
View of the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, on Monday. (Yonhap)
The leaders of six high prosecutors’ offices gathered on Monday morning to discuss response measures on the Democratic Party of Korea’s legislative push to strip investigative power from the prosecution, continuing the law enforcement agency’s vocal opposition to the controversial move.

At 9:30 a.m. at the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seocho-gu, southern Seoul, the six senior prosecutors entered an undisclosed meeting held just 10 days after the last such meeting took place on April 8. The meeting was expected to continue into the afternoon, and the meeting was not concluded as of press time.

Some have forecast that the senior prosecutors at the meeting could offer to resign, following Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo’s offer of resignation Sunday as a show of opposition to the legislative push.

In meeting the press prior to the meeting, the six prosecutors were united in denouncing the Democratic Party’s actions. They said the ruling party was pushing unreasonably to completely strip the prosecution’s long-held power to investigate cases, saying the move will only benefit criminals and undermine public interest.

They added that the Democratic Party is unreasonable in believing it can make such drastic changes to the criminal justice system in two weeks while ignoring the opposition of scholars, civic groups and lawyers.

Legislators with the Democratic Party on Friday officially submitted a bill proposing revisions to the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecutors’ Office Act, which will leave the prosecution only with the power to indict and prosecute charges on given cases.

The bill needs review from parliamentary committees before being put for a final vote at a plenary session of the National Assembly. The Democratic Party believes everything could be done by May 4, the end of this month’s provisional parliament.

The liberal party has argued it has to process the bill before President Moon Jae-in’s term ends in early May, claiming it is crucial for the prosecution reform that started with Moon’s presidential term to be finalized before President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol takes office.

Its officials also argue that the bill is needed to prevent the expected push from the Yoon administration to give more power and authority to the prosecution, an agency that has been long accused of abusing its power for political purposes.

Prosecutors have been fiercely opposing the bill, engaging in public announcements and setting up meetings with legislators to protest the legislative push. On Tuesday, 150 junior-level prosecutors across the country are also holding a meeting to discuss response measures on the bill.

Kim, the head of the prosecution, expressed his intent to resign Sunday in protest of the bill after his request for a one-on-one meeting with President Moon was rejected. The presidential office turned down the request and notified Kim that Moon will hold a meeting with Kim at some time by the end of the day on Monday.

The legislative action has also faced fierce opposition from all other related sectors, many of which claimed the move will leave the police unchecked and undermine the system of checks and balances already in place.

The People Power Party, the liberal Democratic Party’s conservative rival and also President-elect Yoon’s party, warned it would stage a filibuster if the bill comes to a final vote at the National Assembly. If the People Power Party consolidates forces with the minor left-wing Justice Party, the Democratic Party would be unable to stop the filibuster through a vote.

The bill could end up failing to pass the final stage during this month’s provisional parliament, even if the Democratic Party uses its power to get all the committee-level votes. However, a filibuster is unavailable for a repeat on the same bill if it is tried again next month, so chances still remain for the bill to eventually pass in May.

By Ko Jun-tae (