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Toward prosecution reform

June 29,2017
President Moon Jae-in named Park Sang-ki, a professor at Yonsei University Law School and outsider of the state judiciary establishment, as his justice minister, after another law scholar withdrew during the confirmation process in a show of will to reform the state prosecutorial institution. The choice came after Moon’s first pick — Ahn Kyong-whan, an professor emeritus of law studies at Seoul National University — bowed out amid a scandal over his past conduct including a fraudulent first marriage.

Park served as co-chairman of progressive civilian rights group Citizens’ Coalition for Economic Justice (CCEJ). Kim Sang-jo, the chief of the Fair Trade Commission, and presidential policy chief Jang Ha-sung, have also been recruited from another progressive civilian group, People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy.

Park, an expert in criminal law, said he would use all of his expertise and experience from legal studies and civilian activist activities to reform the state prosecution and ensure noninterference from the justice ministry on judiciary affairs. Indicating the possibility of allowing the police to co-share investigative power with the prosecutors, he said the prosecutor’s exclusive power to initiate criminal progress comes from the people. Park, who had also been part of the committee on reforms on the legal system under former liberal president Roh Moo-hyun, previously had criticized the overbearing prosecutorial use of its authority under the influence of political power.

If Park gains a legislative endorsement, he would work with another law professor and civilian activist Cho Kuk, who is now the presidential chief secretary for civil affairs, to spearhead judiciary reforms. The prosecution, which has failed to reform itself despite numerous chances, is now in the hands of outside legal experts for an overhaul. No one would oppose the much-delayed prosecutorial reform.

But Park must pass confirmation scrutiny first. The justice minister, more than any other cabinet member, must be morally clean. If he also ends up in the hot seat like the last nominee, the presidential office would lose face and steam in its reform drive.

JoongAng Ilbo, June 28, Page 30