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Unfit for his job

June 15,2019
Justice Minister Park Sang-ki had to share the results of an independent investigation probing injustice in the prosecution in a bizarre press briefing that was boycotted by reporters. The boycott was largely caused by the minister. He told reporters that he wouldn’t be taking any questions an hour before the briefing. The press corps told the minister that reporters would attend a briefing without asking questions. Yet the minister went ahead with the briefing.

His action drew a strong backlash from reporters for treating them as note takers. The briefing was about the findings of the investigation. As the probe raised questions during the process, reporters were bound to ask about them. But Minister Park denied them this, despite various controversies over the 18 month-long investigations by an investigating team and a special committee to dig up past mistakes committed by the prosecution regarding 17 past cases.

Out of the nine members of the committee, six were recruited from a progressive legal group Lawyers for Democratic Society. There had been concerns about one-sidedness, but the justice ministry stayed mum. While addressing politically sticky issues like sex scandals involving former Vice Justice Minister Kim Hak-eui, late actress Jang Ja-yeon and the 2009 clash in a Yongsan District, central Seoul redevelopment site, the investigation team came under fire for its questionable procedures.

The investigation into the raid at the Yongsan development site — where a fire during the clash killed six citizens and injured 24 — was most controversial. The case was included in the list of 17 cases for new scrutiny, even though it already received a final ruling from the Supreme Court. Nearly half of the prosecutors involved in the case are still active. They strongly protested reopening the case. Four in the special committee on past cases and one from a separate investigation team were former or current members of a law firm that took up the Yongsan case on behalf of the rioters on the scene. That’s the same as lawyers who defended victims in a trial investigating the state prosecution on their case.

Former and active prosecutors issued statements twice, claiming that the special committee violated the privacy act by going through the investigation files on the Yongsan case. But Minister Park, the committee and the investigation team did not respond to this accusation. The termination of their activities could stoke a legal battle. The minister is not fit for the job.