(ATTN: MODIFIES 4th para for clarification; UPDATES with remarks on virus control, college entrance exam in last 3 paras; ADDS photo, byline)
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, Nov. 30 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in issued an unusual message Monday in public for South Korea's civil servants, saying they need to break away from what is obsolete and put the interests of the whole community above those of their own organizations or groups.
The president reaffirmed his administration's "firm determination" to reform "power institutions" as one of his key policy agenda items, which also include the Korean-version New Deal, a carbon neutrality campaign and regulatory reform.
In general, power institutions here refer to the state prosecution service, police, the National Intelligence Service and the National Tax Service.
As the government is striving to turn the COVID-19 pandemic into an opportunity, it is time for public officials to "pull together their minds" in coping with the crisis, Moon said in front of pool reporters at the outset of his weekly meeting with senior Cheong Wa Dae aides.
"All public officials should return to the basics and fulfill their duty of serving the people and making the country better," he emphasized.
He added that they should pioneer an era of upheaval with the attitude of caring more about the interests of the community, not organizations or groups, to which they belong.
Moon's remarks came as Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl are at loggerheads. Choo has even suspended Yoon from duty, citing allegations of several misdeeds. The Seoul Administrative Court had a hearing for about an hour Monday to review Yoon's petition against the measure.
Choo has been spearheading the prosecution reform drive and accused Yoon of using his power and authority to hamper it. The top prosecutor, however, said he is just carrying out his duty faithfully even with regard to some high-profile corruption scandals involving confidants to the president.
Moon has kept mum on the conflict between Choo and Yoon, which has made headlines in local newspapers for a number of days.
He apparently alluded to the sensitive issue, talking about the importance of reform during the Cheong Wa Dae session.
"Even if (we) go through difficulties and troubles, a new future will be opened when (we) boldly break away from obsolete things via reform and innovation and have the will for change," Moon said.
Meanwhile, Moon vowed a "pan-governmental emergency response system" to ensure that the annual state college entrance exam will be held nationwide safely amid the rapid spread of the coronavirus.
"This week, entering December, is a very important period in many aspects," he said. "Above all, (we) should certainly turn around the upward trend of new infections. It's more important than any other thing to hold the CSAT safely, which is three days away." CSAT is the abbreviation for College Scholastic Ability Test.
Close to half a million students and others have applied to take the CSAT slated for Thursday, according to education authorities.
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