+ A

Investigation is not over

Oct 16,2019
Confrontation over former Justice Minister Cho Kuk between the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition parties continued in the National Assembly’s regular audit of the Ministry of Justice on Tuesday — a day after Cho’s resignation. After an opposition lawmaker criticized Cho’s stepping down a day before his scheduled appearance at the judiciary committee as a “sheer lack of responsibility,” an independent lawmaker friendly to the DP attacked him for denouncing Cho.

After Cho’s wife returned home from being interrogated by prosecutors, another opposition lawmaker condemned her for behaving as if “all of her suspicions were cleared” by her husband’s resignation. A ruling party lawmaker attacked him, saying, “You stop using indecent language! She had to return home because of the shock of her husband stepping down.”

The two-month Cho Kuk soap opera has sown the seeds of division in our society. Public opinion sharply split on Cho. As a result of the entire brouhaha, reforms of the prosecution lost direction.

The key to healing the wounds from this conflict lies with the prosecution. It must finish its probes into Cho’s family strictly and fairly. Its conclusions will be justified only if it wraps up investigations without any political considerations. For Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, that may be an uphill battle. But he must carry on in order to show the public a set of conclusions in the case that are obviously unbiased and fact-based.

That is the real starting point for prosecutorial reform: a show of impartiality and fairness. That will help our younger generation get over its outrage over the obviously special treatment Cho’s children allegedly received from universities. If the prosecution succumbs to political pressure, it will have the opposite effect: an unprecedented backlash from the public.

Some ruling party lawmakers are demanding the resignation of the prosecutor general in return for Cho’s stepping down. That is absurd. The core of prosecutorial reforms is ensuring prosecutors’ independence. That’s why the law guarantees statutory terms — two years — for prosecutor generals. Such a demand is nothing but a conspiracy to reap political gains.

We hope President Moon Jae-in shows some prudence in choosing Cho’s successor. Given his appointment of Cho, he cannot afford another howler. The Blue House must use a strict screening system to find an appropriate candidate. That’s an important lesson from the Cho debacle.

JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 16, Page 30