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Protect people’s rights (KOR)

May 03,2019
After the bills rearranging investigative rights between the prosecution and the police, and on the establishment of an extra investigative authority to deal with corruption among high government officials were “fast-tracked” earlier this week, some tangible signs of resistance have surfaced in the prosecution. Senior prosecutors have joined the chorus since Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il expressed opposition to the bills on the grounds of violating the principle of checks and balances. The prosecutor general is expected to return home Saturday after cutting short an overseas trip. Depending on the situation, it could lead to prosecutors collectively resisting the bills.

Since taking office in May 2017, President Moon Jae-in pressed ahead with a rearrangement of the investigative rights and the establishment of a special law enforcement body to root out corruption among senior government officials. In other words, there was enough time for related government ministries to consult about the sensitive issue. The internal dissonance reveals problems with the Blue House’s ability to communicate and coordinate with other ministries. The prosecution has since been complaining about the Blue House and the ruling Democratic Party’s lack of communication with them.

The prosecution’s concerns seem to be reasonable. If the bill is passed, the police can conclude investigations without instruction from the prosecution. There would be no problem even if the police find a suspect innocent after a thorough investigation. The police could also wrap up a case at their disposal even when a suspect committed a heinous crime.

That has not been the case so far due to the prosecution’s rights to command and oversee the police. As the prosecution retain their exclusive right to request court-issued arrest warrants even under the new bill, they still can keep the police in check. Nevertheless, you can hardly deny the possibility of the police abusing their investigative rights under the new law. The police say they have changed and matured now. Yet given their collusion with suspects — as seen in the Burning Sun scandal — police corruption has hardly vanished.
The Moon administration pushed for a rearrangement of the investigative rights in a bid to prevent the prosecution from abusing its power in collusion with the powers that be. Put differently, the arrangement was not aimed at simply transferring the prosecution’s power to other law enforcement agencies. Yet the bill suggests that the prosecution’s power has shifted to the police and the special investigative body. Whether it be the police or the special investigating authority, you cannot fully guarantee fair investigations. The special body can serve as simply another law enforcement agency on top of existing ones.

Though the bills were fast tracked, we still have time to challenge them. Instead of showing a blind determination to weaken the prosecution, the government and ruling party must carefully approach the issue. What counts most is how to protect people’s rights, not how to rearrange investigative rights between two law enforcement apparatuses.

JoongAng Ilbo, May 3, Page 30