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(LEAD) Cheong Wa Dae hails passage of bills on prosecution reform

All News 22:54 January 13, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with responses by police, prosecution, Cho Kuk from 10th para; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 13 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in's office welcomed the passage of bills Tuesday that grant police more investigative power as the completion of a system to reform the state prosecution.

"Finally, the bills on adjusting the investigative rights of the prosecution and police have passed the National Assembly," Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Min-jung said in a statement.

"After a long wait, the institutionalization of prosecution reform has been completed at last," she added.

Ko was responding to the National Assembly's approval of the two bills in the absence of lawmakers belonging to the main opposition Liberty Korea Party. They have strongly protested the Moon administration's push for the legislation.

Ko said the government will make full preparations for follow-up administrative measures.

Cheong Wa Dae spokesperson Ko Mi-jung in a file photo (Yonhap)

She also welcomed the passage of a set of three bills aimed at enhancing the transparency of accounting at private kindergartens that receive state subsides. Cheong Wa Dae expects their accounting practices to greatly improve with the legislation, she said.

In another statement, she hailed parliament's endorsement of Moon's pick of Chung Sye-kyun, a former National Assembly speaker, as prime minister.

Chung is expected to play a role in the Moon government's communication with the people and cooperation with opposition parties, leading "tangible changes" in terms of the economy and various social problems, according to Ko.

The president will likely appoint Chung on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the Korean National Police Agency said it "feels heavy responsibility," as the legislation reflects the people's call for police to fulfill its role and duty under a "democratic investigation structure" based on the principle of "checks and balances."

It described the passage of the bills as a "very meaningful first step" for South Korea toward an advanced law-enforcement system, 65 years after the country's criminal procedure law took effect.

"(We) will make 2020 'the original year of responsible investigation,'" it added, pledging to establish a fair and neutral probe system.

The Supreme Prosecutors Office issued a brief statement that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl respects the National Assembly's decision as a public official.

A file photo of former justice minister Cho Kuk (Yonhap)

Cho Kuk, a former justice minister and key architect of the prosecution reform, said he was touched by parliament's approval of the legislation. While serving as senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, he mapped out concrete prosecution reform plans. But he and his family members were charged over a range of academic and financial misdeeds in probes which his supporters called the prosecution's resistance to reform.

"A master-servant relationship between prosecution and police, maintained since the introduction of criminal procedure law in 1954, has been removed and restructured into a cooperative one," he said in a Facebook post.

As the law initially intended, police should be in charge of investigation, with indictment handled by prosecution, he added.

So far, state prosecutors here have monopolized the rights to indictment and supervised police investigations.


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