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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on July 22)

All News 07:11 July 22, 2016

Tightening prosecution reform

The opposition Minjoo Party of Korea and the People’s Party agreed to cooperate to establish a new, independent investigation agency for high-ranking government officials’ crimes, after a series of suspicions concerning top prosecutors were revealed. Hong Man-pyo, a former director-level prosecutor, was accused of tax evasion, and Jin Kyung-joon, another director-level prosecutor, was accused of receiving bribes. Suspicions of irregularities were also raised over Woo Byung-woo, senior civil affairs secretary to the president.

The two opposition parties vowed to present and discuss a bill on establishing the new investigative agency at the August session of the National Assembly. The establishment of the agency is intended to check the uncontrolled power of the prosecution. In the 18th National Assembly, the special committee on judicial reform already presented a plan. That, however, was dismissed due to organized resistance by the prosecution.

Lawmakers also faced criticism because they attempted to exclude National Assembly representatives from the scope of investigation by the agency, while limiting the subjects to some high-ranking officials such as judges and prosecutors.

Following the recent string of corruption allegations involving former and incumbent senior prosecutors, concerns snowballed over the fate of not only the Park Geun-hye administration but also the entire country. As members of a law enforcement authority, ethics and transparency are the most important values. Reforming the prosecution is more important than anything in stopping any further corruption by prosecutors. When we think about justice, the need is even more urgent. Until now, the Justice Ministry and prosecutors said they were extremely embarrassed and promised reform, whenever a disgraceful scandal involving a prosecutor is revealed. Nothing, however, changed.

Under the Criminal Procedure Act, only a prosecutor can institute public prosecution and conduct court proceedings, but the system must be overhauled completely in order to stop the prosecution’s power abuse. The lawmakers must start efforts to redistribute the investigative authorities between the prosecution and police.

Furthermore, the fraying principle of uniformity of public prosecutors must be broken and the Justice Ministry must be open to the private sector for transparent appointments. Now is the time to begin prosecutorial reform.

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