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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Dec. 8)

All News 07:02 December 08, 2020

Democracy at a crossroads

In Monday's meeting with senior aides, President Moon Jae-in said, "I am very sorry for the political chaos." His comment sounded like an apology for Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's relentless campaign to oust Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over his investigations into abuse of power by senior government officials and presidential aides in Moon's administration. But Moon kept mum about why his government faced such a crisis — and how he planned to address it. He simply expressed his regrets.

Moon said he "desperately hopes the current crisis serves as the last pain for our democracy and reform," underscoring the need to "diffuse the power of the top law enforcement agency" for the sake of the people as "it is the biggest task of my administration." He expressed his hope for the establishment of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) as soon as possible. As expected, the focus of his remarks was on the launch of the new law enforcement body above the prosecution.

In the legislature, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and opposition People Power Party (PPP) were feuding over a revision to a bill. After Moon's message, the DP became more aggressive than before. Why not? The president encouraged DP lawmakers to pass the revision to help complete his desire for a methodical reform of the top law enforcement agency. What's left is the ruling party's bulldozing away of the controversial revision following Moon's instruction.

If the DP pushes forward the revision based on his supermajority, it will certainly pass the Legislation and Judiciary Committee today and see the light of a plenary session of the National Assembly on Wednesday. The PPP has no other choice but to allow for the revision be passed.

That's not all. The CIO can demand to investigate all cases already under investigation by the prosecution and police as long as one government official is involved in the case. Moreover, the term in office of prosecutors working for the CIO is extended to seven years from three years. That means the prosecutors can keep their position even after the administration has changed by the time the next election arrives.

Political analysts link Moon's determination to launch the CIO as early as possible to a desperate need to ensure his regime's security in the face of the prosecutor general's investigations into a plethora of cases involving the Blue House. In a joint statement, a group of professors from Seoul National University warned against the danger from an elected power attempting to control everything in a democracy. Moon must pay heed.

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