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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 13)

All News 07:04 November 13, 2020

Thirst for new politics
Prosecutor general ranks top in opinion poll

It is surprising to see Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl topping the list of favored presidential candidates. According to a recent survey conducted by Hangil Research & Consulting, 24.7 percent of 1,022 people said they backed a Yoon run for the presidency. He was followed by Lee Nak-yon, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), with 22.2 percent and Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung of the same party with 18.4 percent.

Politicians, pundits and the public are wondering why the top prosecutor's popularity has suddenly soared. The reason seems to be clear and simple ― more and more people are fed up with partisan struggles and political bickering. They are certainly looking for new figures who can end divisive politics and bring hope and unity to the nation.

Most of all, the poll reflected the public's deep distrust in the country's political establishment. A growing number of people have become frustrated at the Moon Jae-in administration which has been shouting empty slogans about ushering in a fair, equitable and just society. An escalating conflict between the justice ministry and the prosecution over prosecutorial reform has also contributed to ramping up Yoon's popularity.

More seriously, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's relentless and unwarranted attacks on Yoon have made people turn their backs on the ruling party's presidential aspirants. Choo launched a fight against Yoon as soon as she took office in January after he launched investigations into alleged bribery, election rigging and influence peddling involving former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and other confidants of President Moon.

Minister Choo and DPK lawmakers have gone too far in their bid to block Yoon from digging up dirt on the inner circle of political power. She has mobilized her appointment and inspection authority to tame prosecutors. Choo has also abused her power to command the prosecution directly regarding specific criminal cases surrounding ruling camp figures.

Choo is stepping up her offensive against Yoon over high-profile investment fraud cases involving two asset management firms and a data manipulation case related to a government decision to shut down the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor to implement President Moon's nuclear phase-out policy.

When the opinion poll was released Wednesday, Choo even called on Yoon to resign and enter politics. It is difficult to understand why she put forward such a demand. Whom she should be fighting is not Yoon, but corrupt officials and politicians. The Moon government was born following the impeachment of then President Park Geun-hye over corruption. It is wrong to try to kick Yoon out. Yoon has built his reputation as an anti-corruption crusader who joined a special counsel team to investigate Park's case. That's why he was appointed as prosecutor general.

The Moon administration and the DPK should be ashamed of their attempts to protect corrupt figures. They cannot realize prosecutorial reform without ensuring independence and political neutrality of the law enforcement agency. Nor can they build a fair and just society if they balk at rooting out corruption. Yoon's rising popularity is a clear reminder that people are thirsty for a new leader and new politics.

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