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The birth of a new dinosaur

Jan 18,2018
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“The police organization is getting too big,” someone lamented after the Blue House announced the reform of the prosecution, police and the National Intelligence Service on Jan. 14.

It wasn’t the opinion of the prosecution or the NIS. It is the response from Seo Bo-hak — a professor of criminal law at Kyunghee Law School and director of the Center for Legislative Watch under the People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy.

Seo is known as a champion of police in legal circles. Currently, he is a member of the police reform committee under the National Police Agency. Seo argued, “The prosecution’s investigation command over the police should be reduced, and the police should be allowed to request mandatory investigations such as search and seizure without the prosecutors’ involvement.”

Seo is a progressive scholar who has criticized prosecutors’ political moves in the past. Yet he was concerned about the future of the police that will become powerful as a result of the Blue House reform. He thinks the investigative police to be installed under the National Police Agency will be a huge investigative agency that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. As it would lead to more human rights infringement allegations, the plan needs to be remedied, he argues.

Prior to announcing the reform plan of the prosecution, police and the National Intelligence Service, the Blue House did not go through the process of gathering opinions from them in advance. As the NIS and prosecution are considered to be closely associated with past ills, their authority has been taken out and transferred to the police to revamp the investigation structure. But many people say the police structure is getting too big. A former police chief said that if Cho designed an ideal system, it could lead to confusion.

Cho says that the division of investigation and indictment was the global standard since when he was a professor at Seoul National University’s Law School. While it must have been the basis for the Blue House reform, some prosecutors say that the premise is not right.

Shin Tae-hoon of the Seoul Eastern District Prosecutor’s Office refuted it in his essay, “Comparative Legal Analysis and Criticism on the Separation of Investigation and Indictment. He argued that 29 of the 35 OECD member countries define prosecutors’ rights to investigation or investigative command by law. He also cited the examples of Austria and Switzerland, where prosecutors’ investigation command right was guaranteed in the 2000s.

It is hard to predict what will happen if the reform plan is implemented and the police oversees anti-Communist investigations. The National Assembly’s special committee on legal reform needs to review the details of the plan and modify it with only the human rights of the citizens in mind.

JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 17, Page 29

*The author is a national news reporter of the JoongAng Ilbo.

YOON HO-JIN