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Yoon’s time in the spotlight

Oct 18,2019
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl made a kind of public debut at the National Assembly’s audit of the prosecution on Thursday. Asked by an opposition lawmaker if he will stick to independent investigating unaffected by political pressure in the process of probing allegations against former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family, Yoon said he would. The prosecutor general said he will deal with the case based on the law and principles.

The judiciary committee’s audit of the top law enforcement agency was Yoon’s first opportunity to make his positions clear. But lawmakers from both sides of the aisle tried to influence him. Over the public release of medical records of Prof. Chung Kyung-sim, Cho’s wife — including claims of a brain tumor and symptoms of a stroke — the ruling Democratic Party (DP) criticized the prosecution for leaking sensitive evidence, while the opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) raised questions about the sincerity of those medical documents. In regard to the prosecution’s investigation of Cho’s family, the DP attacked Yoon for a “protracted investigation,” while the LKP raised additional suspicions about the certificates Cho’s children received from top universities to use in the admissions process. In a weird turn of events, the ruling party attacked the prosecutor general whereas the opposition supported him.

On the Hankyoreh’s report on the possibility of Yoon having enjoyed entertainment in a villa owned by a notorious contractor and Yoon’s filing of a libel suit over it, both sides clashed. Some DP lawmakers urged Yoon to restrain from an “emotional reaction” and LKP lawmakers demanded he deal with it sternly. Later, Yoon said he would reconsider his suit if the newspaper apologies to him. On the issue of establishing an extra investigative body for crimes involving high government officials, the LKP denounced it for being an “uncontrollable monster” and an unnecessary level of bureaucracy, while the DP praised the idea of investigating grave crimes by the high, mighty and their relatives as part of our checks and balances.

Such a dramatic soap opera could turn out to be a turning point for a prosecution susceptible to pressure from outside. Only history will tell. It also revealed the reality of a prosecution under political attack. At the end of the day, Prosecutor General Yoon summed up the direction of prosecutorial reform in two ways: curtailing the prosecution’s power and ensuring its political neutrality. Yoon famously said he does not show his allegiance to people. We hope he can carry on without compromising his deliberate lack of political smarts.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 18, Page 30