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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Nov. 26)

All News 07:11 November 26, 2020

Anachronistic move
: Justice minister should stop kicking top prosecutor out

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae has certainly gone too far in her fight against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. On Tuesday, she suspended Yoon from duty over alleged "misdeeds." She also revealed a decision to take disciplinary action against him.

It is unprecedented for the top prosecutor to be barred from duty. Even during the military dictatorships in the 1970s, no justice minister had ever taken such an anachronistic action against the chief of the law enforcement agency.

Choo's action is apparently aimed at forcing Yoon out of the prosecution only because he has continued to investigate key figures of the political elite over their alleged bribe taking, influence peddling and election rigging. She has launched an offensive against Yoon in the name of prosecutorial reform since he investigated former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, a confidant of President Moon Jae-in, over corruption allegations last year.

Minister Choo cited six reasons for suspending Yoon's duty. They included Yoon's "improper" meeting with a media executive, the illegal collection of information about judges in trials of Cho and other figures, and the interference with investigations to protect his associates. She also accused Yoon of having tried to block the investigation of alleged perjury in the case of former Prime Minister Han Myeong-sook who was convicted of bribery. Also among the reasons is Yoon's alleged violation of the code of political neutrality for civil servants.

Yoon should be subject to stern punishment, if he committed serious misdeeds or violated professional ethics. However, the cited reasons appear to be lame excuses aimed at forcing him to step down. They are only vague allegations without any sufficient evidence. It is wrong to bar the prosecutor general from duty over unverified accusations.

Yoon is not considered to be a person who meets a media CEO for personal gain, or impede fair investigations for whatever reasons. He has a good track record of fighting corruption. As a member of an independent counsel team, he played a key role in finding evidence that led to the indictment of former President Park Geun-hye on charges of corruption and influence peddling.

That's why President Moon appointed Yoon as the prosecutor general in July 2019. Moon told Yoon to investigate the incumbent political power without any restrictions to root out corruption. But the President seems to have betrayed what he said when Yoon targeted the inner circle of his power. Choo is undoubtedly waging a proxy war against Yoon. It is not Yoon, but Choo who has undermined the prosecution's political neutrality and independence and undermined the rule of law.

Choo might succeed in calling a disciplinary committee meeting to punish Yoon, or even dismiss him. She reported her action plan to Moon beforehand. This means Moon approved it. It is anachronistic and undemocratic to replace Yoon with a docile prosecutor in order to cover up political corruption. It would be shameful if the Moon administration were to repeat the same mistakes of the ousted President Park. Keep in mind that corruption begets corruption and a corrupt regime eventually ends up with collapse.

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