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Reforms for whom? (KOR)

Oct 02,2019
In a question session at the National Assembly on Tuesday, Justice Minister Cho Kuk said that human rights for suspects have not been properly protected while prosecutors enjoyed complete independence in their investigations. He said he had reported to President Moon Jae-in in the previous day about ways to stop the prosecution from infringing on human rights. The infringements were supposed to include the public release of allegations against suspects and overnight interrogations. Shortly after Cho’s briefing, Moon urged Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, a hard-liner, to come up with concrete measures to restore public trust in the law enforcement agency. Rep. Lee In-young, floor leader for the ruling Democratic Party, joined the chorus by demanding the top prosecutor answer directly.

In the face of such pressure from the president, the justice minister and the floor leader, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on Tuesday presented its answer. Firstly, it plans to disband the powerful special investigation department — except in three major prosecutors’ offices, including the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office — and improve their practices, including public summoning of suspects and public release of charges involving suspects.

The general public wonders about the real motives behind all this. There are rumors that Justice Minister Cho’s wife will be summoned for questioning without public notification. As human rights protection is an unalienable Constitutional right, her privacy should be protected. But why are new rules applied to Cho’s wife first?

Cho cites democratic procedures and human rights protection for suspects as top priorities for prosecution reforms. But we are suspicious. Korea’s prosecution reform has been centered on protecting the independence of prosecutors and banning their investigations for political purposes. As a result, a prosecutor general now enjoys a fixed term and prosecutors cannot be dispatched to the Blue House. In Tuesday’s question session in the legislature, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon said that a prosecutor general is authorized to serve for two years regardless of administrations.

We wonder what the reform is really aimed at? Cho said that prosecutors are guaranteed independence. But the changed rules can affect the investigation of his wife and other relatives. That’s why an increasing number of people are wondering if the government wants to force Prosecutor General Yoon to step down. The government must stop prosecution reforms if they are dubious.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 2, Page 30