+ A

Moon asks Assembly to reform investigators

Feb 16,2019
President Moon Jae-in urged the National Assembly Friday to pass his initiative to overhaul powerful law enforcement authorities by redistributing investigative power and creating a new investigation body for top public servants, stressing that he wants the law to be permanently changed.

Moon hosted a strategy meeting at the Blue House on reforming the National Intelligence Service, prosecution and police with top officials.

About 50 officials, including Justice Minister Park Sang-ki, National Intelligence Service Chief Suh Hoon and Interior and Safety Minister Kim Boo-kyum attended the meeting, but Prosecutor General Moon Moo-il and Police Commissioner General Min Gap-ryong were absent.

In his opening statement, Moon reconfirmed his determination to complete the reform before the end of this year, as he promised during his New Year’s press conference. Since he took office in May 2017, Moon has pushed forward with a reform campaign to “eradicate the accumulated evils” of Korean society.

Moon’s government also introduced some bills that would turn the its plans into law.

They seek to revise the law governing the National Intelligence Service to reorganize the scope of its missions, create a new investigative body that will probe the misconduct of top officials and redistribute investigative powers between the prosecution and police.

Although significant progress was made within the government, Moon said he wants the laws to stay in place after he leaves office.

“I want to legalize and systemize the reform,” Moon said. “Through legislation, we must make checks and balances between law enforcement authorities that function permanently.”

It remains to be seen if the legislature will pass Moon’s initiatives. The Blue House announced a reform measure in January last year, but the bills are still pending in the National Assembly.

On Friday, Moon urged the Special Committee on Judicial Reform at the National Assembly to speed up the process. The committee’s tenure ends in June, and he asked for bipartisan support to pass the bills before the end of this year.

According to presidential spokesman Kim Eui-kyeom, Moon expressed fear that the progress his administration has achieved so far may be reversed after his term ends unless legal and systemic changes are made to back them up.

“We need a strategy meeting to pass the bills,” Moon was quoted as saying. “And if they cannot be made into law, we must also think about ways to implement the reform measures without going through the legislature.”

Moon also tried to persuade prosecutors, who will be heavily impacted by the reforms. The prosecution is particularly resistant to the plan to create a new investigative body to probe top public servants.

“Because the plan is being discussed as a way to reform the prosecution, prosecutors are overreacting,” Kim quoted Moon as saying. “The new investigative body is originally intended to probe the president and top aides. Although there [already] is the prosecution and police, they have long failed to probe corruption involving the presidential family and friends.”

The new investigative body is intended to investigate the president, his or her family and Blue House officials as well as lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.

Including prosecutors as a subject of investigation was necessary because the prosecution has been reluctant to investigate its own members, Moon said. “If the prosecution is willing to investigate a prosecutor’s corruption or let the police do so, why would we need the new body?” Moon asked. “The prosecution must approach this issue with such a view.”

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]