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In the name of justice

Nov 08,2017
The prosecution is engaged in investigations of so-called “past ills.” But the way prosecutors probe malpractices of past administrations can hardly be considered normal or neutral. They embark on looking into a number of cases at the request of the Blue House, the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and other branches of the government.

The list includes sensitive cases such as the suspicious reporting procedure in the Blue House at the time of the Sewol ferry tragedy during the Park Geun-hye administration, the spy agency’s alleged involvement in posting pro-Park messages on the internet before the 2012 presidential election and its blacklisting of anti-Park writers and entertainers, and the Ministry of Education’s influence peddling in publishing a government history textbook.

Government agencies have already commissioned the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to look into 16 cases to “root out past ills” of the past two conservative administrations. Nearly 40 percent of its prosecutors are involved in their investigations. The number of prosecutors involved — and the way they mobilize them — are unprecedented.

Since the launch of the Moon Jae-in administration in May, chief of staff Im Jong-seok urged each ministry to set up a task force to eradicate its own past ills. The NIS alone asked the prosecution to investigate 13 cases of its malpractices in the two conservative administrations. Their requests for investigation are nothing but an attempt to exert political influence.

Such requests also serve as pressure on the prosecution because they must respect the incumbent government. Prosecutors even ridicule themselves for turning into “troubleshooters” for the government in power. Despite the Moon administration’s vow to ensure political neutrality for the prosecution, such moves constitute a self-denial.

The impartiality of the prosecution’s investigations can trigger suspicion. The task forces in the administration, mostly consisting of liberal figures, are sorting out cases worthy of the prosecution’s investigation after combing through computers used by the Lee Myung-bak and Park Geun-hye administrations.

Prosecutors must wonder if they are doing their job at the behest of the government. The Ministry of Employment and Labor and the Ministry of Health and Welfare will also ask the prosecution to investigate their own ills. If such investigations continue, the prosecution cannot avoid criticism. They must make clear a determination to shun politically motivated investigations.

JoongAng Ilbo, Nov. 8, Page 34