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(2nd LD) Moon urges prosecution's self-reform, saying it's still powerful

All News 11:17 January 14, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with remarks on politics in last 6 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Jan. 14 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday the state prosecution is still powerful despite a set of legislative measures to reform the organization.

He called for Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to push for "self-reform" while speaking at his New Year's press conference at Cheong Wa Dae.

Moon avoided a direct answer when asked if he has "confidence" in Yoon.

He stressed that his administration's prosecution reform drive is not related to ongoing investigations into high-profile scandals involving former and sitting Cheong Wa Dae officials.

The recent replacement of several senior prosecutors close to Yoon has nothing to do with the reform drive either, he added.

President Moon Jae-in speaks during a news conference for the new year at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 14, 2020. (Yonhap)

The president was responding to questions about a controversy over the justice ministry's reassignment of Yoon's lieutenants.

Moon said the right to appoint new senior prosecutors by the president and the justice minister "should be respected."

He added that former Justice Minister Cho Kuk has made a lot of contributions to the prosecution reform drive.

Citing Cho's suffering from prosecutors' intensive probe into a scandal involving him and his family, Moon said that whether they are guilty or not will be revealed through court trials.

But Moon said he owes a "debt in heart" to Cho and asked the people to stop conflicts over him. Social rifts are going on in South Korea over whether it was right for Moon to have picked Cho as justice minister.

President Moon Jae-in attends a news conference for the new year at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Jan. 14, 2020. (Yonhap)

On Monday night, parliament passed a package of bills on granting police more investigative rights in a bid to rebalance its role and power vis-a-vis the prosecution.

Lawmakers earlier passed another bill on creating a special non-prosecution unit specializing in looking into corruption among high-ranking civil servants, including prosecutors.

On politics, Moon stressed the "desperate" need for consultations between the ruling and opposition parties.

He rapped the current National Assembly, saying it should not operate as it does currently.

The president expressed hope for changes in the culture of politics here through the April 15 general elections.

He also said he will continue to give the country's prime minister more power and authority.

Moon added that he has no plan to push for a constitutional amendment himself.


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