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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on Dec. 3)

All News 07:03 December 03, 2020

Justice minister should resign
President Moon needs to apologize to people

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl returned to work Tuesday immediately after the Seoul Administrative Court accepted his request for an injunction against Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's order to suspend him from duty for alleged misdeeds. The court made the decision in favor of Yoon, citing procedural flaws in the minister's action against him. The move dealt a severe blow to Choo both legally and morally. Prior to the court's action, the ministry's inspection committee concluded that a series of measures she had taken against Yoon were largely unfair and flawed.

We welcome the developments that are in line with the spirit of the Constitution and the rule of law. Minister Choo should take responsibility for recklessly trying to oust Yoon only because he has continued to investigate the inner circle of the political elite. She faces growing criticism for a lack of legitimacy in removing Yoon from duty and calling for disciplinary action against him for vague and groundless allegations. One of the major procedural flaws is her failure to inform Yoon in advance of the allegations she brought against him as well as to give him an opportunity to explain his position.

Most prosecutors, both senior and junior, across the nation have been resisting Choo's plan to punish Yoon for unreasonable reasons, except for his relentless campaign against corruption among key officials and politicians. Vice Justice Minister Koh Ki-young added pressure on Choo, calling on her to compromise from her tough stance against Yoon. In protest, he tendered his resignation after the court's decision. The ministry has decided to postpone a disciplinary committee meeting, originally set for Wednesday, by two days to Friday to offer Yoon enough time to defend himself.

Yet Choo has refused to back down in her fight against Yoon, expressing her determination to take the disciplinary action against him. She said, "I will consider the committee's recommendation in the process of taking disciplinary measures in accordance with the due process of law." Resuming his post, Yoon clarified his will to do his utmost to "preserve constitutional values and the rule of law." Yoon will unlikely accept any action against him by the disciplinary committee, citing procedural flaws.

Choo should bear in mind that President Moon Jae-in's much-touted prosecutorial reform will go up in smoke if she keeps trying to tame the prosecution and infringe on its political neutrality and independence. She had better give up her bid to stop the prosecution from targeting Moon's confidants and ruling party politicians for their alleged corruption. It is time for Choo to consider stepping down from her post to take responsibility for all the hassles she has created in the name of prosecutorial reform.

Against this backdrop, President Moon might try to dismiss both Choo and Yoon to end their feud which has been undermining his administration. But he will face a strong backlash from the public if he sacks Yoon. It would be better for him to dismiss Choo, holding her accountable for the brouhaha. He also needs to apologize to the people for his inability to deal with the conflict between the justice minister and the chief prosecutor. Most of all, the President should go all-out to ensure the prosecution's political neutrality and the rule of law.

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