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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on Dec. 4)

All News 07:16 December 04, 2020

Dismissal of Yoon will go against court ruling, destroy rule of law

The court ruling and the conclusion by the inspection committee of the Justice Ministry confirm suspicions that Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae took illegitimate steps in order to get Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl dismissed.

Law-breaking conduct by a handful of ministry officials and prosecutors who helped Choo could be grounds for her prosecution later.

The court ruled Tuesday that her order of excluding Yoon from duty is neglect of the prosecution's independence and political neutrality and that it ignores the intent of a law guaranteeing the prosecutor general a two-year term.

The court also ruled that if the prosecutor general obeys the justice minister blindly, prosecutors' independence and neutrality cannot be maintained, effectively deeming Choo's actions unlawful.

The inspection committee concluded unanimously that the ministry's moves to inspect and discipline the prosecutor general have grave procedural faults.

Its inspection regulation requires its inspectors of prosecutors to take commands from the inspector general. But the inspector general alleged his subordinate, said to have received instruction from Choo directly, passed him over in launching an inspection into Yoon.

The subordinate said she reported to the inspector general belatedly, because Choo told her to "maintain security" of her instruction to inspect Yoon.

It goes against the law to pass over the inspector general in inspecting prosecutors. Choo could face a charge of power abuse.

A prosecutor under the inspector general's office who prepared a research report on the legality of suspicions involving Yoon revealed that the subordinate instructed her to delete contents that Yoon is clear from suspicions. This constitutes an abuse of power and alteration of an official document.

The ministry ignored revision procedures in turning the minister's consultation with the inspection committee from mandatory to optional.

The head of the inspection headquarters of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office raided an SPO department without approval from the acting prosecutor general.

The ministry without investigative authority is said to have "commanded" the search. This is an obvious violation of the law banning the ministry from intervening in investigations.

Choo and her followers in the ministry and the prosecution effectively trampled on law and order. They must be investigated and prosecuted.

After the court ruling, the vice justice minister who was supposed to preside over a meeting of the disciplinary committee Wednesday offered to resign. The meeting was postponed to Friday and again to Dec. 10. His resignation is seen as a protest against the injustice of the disciplinary meeting.

If the situation came to this, Choo's moves to get Yoon dismissed by the president through disciplinary action must have lost justification.

The disciplinary panel's meeting based on unjust inspection is naturally illegal and its conclusion should be invalidated.

And yet, Moon appears intent on expelling Yoon regardless.

He appointed Lee Yong-gu, a judge-turned-lawyer, as the new vice justice minister on Wednesday.

His hurried appointment deepens suspicion that the ministry will call the disciplinary session as scheduled.

But the Seoul Administrative Court already ruled the exclusion of Yoon from duty as effectively illegitimate. It emphasized the importance of the prosecution's independence and neutrality.

The ministry's punishment of Yoon would fly in the face of the court ruling. Yoon did nothing wrong. Rather, Choo knocked down the prosecution's independence and political neutrality.

She attempted to suspend Yoon to drive him out. She went too far to cover up suspicions involving the Moon Blue House, such as its alleged intervention in the Ulsan mayoral election and the intentional underestimation of the economic validity of the Wolsong 1 nuclear reactor to shut it down in line with Moon's nuclear phase-out policy.

She wielded every possible authority such as reshuffle, inspection and direct investigation command.

The profile of the new vice justice minister makes one wonder how urgent for Moon it is to prevent inquiry into the controversial Wolsong shutdown.

Lee was a lawyer for Paik Un-gyu, former minister of trade, industry and energy, who is a key suspect in connection with the prosecution's investigation into the nuclear reactor case.

Few but ardent Moon supporters would agree with Choo's actions, as evidenced by the prosecutors who called for the withdrawal of her "unjust" order, the court, the inspection committee and the vice justice minister who resigned apparently in protest.

If the ministry goes against the court ruling and the inspection committee's recommendation in order to get Yoon fired, it would be the climax of breaking the rule of law.

The ministry should call off the disciplinary meeting. Otherwise, the current regime will face stronger backlash. It will be difficult to avoid legal and political responsibility later on.

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