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(2nd LD) Justice ministry holds disciplinary session over prosecution chief's alleged wrongdoing

All News 17:43 December 10, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in 5-6 paras; ADDS photo)

SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Yonhap) -- The Ministry of Justice held a meeting Thursday to discuss disciplinary measures against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over alleged irregularities, after delaying the session twice amid backlash.

Last month, Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae suspended Yoon for six counts of alleged wrongdoing, including surveillance of the judiciary, the first time a justice minister has taken such a step in the country's history.

Yoon, who fiercely refuted all allegations against him, has been restored after winning a court's injunction. But Choo protested the court's decision and has taken the case to a higher court for review.

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae enters the government complex in Gwacheon, south of Seoul, on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

The disciplinary committee was convened at 10:30 a.m. at the Gwacheon Government Complex, but was adjourned after Yoon's legal team took issue with the committee's four members over fairness, and asked them to recuse themselves from deliberation.

The committee in the afternoon rejected Yoon's request for replacement of the four members, reportedly calling his demand "abuse of his right to file for recusal." One of the members recused himself.

The committee and Yoon's team have been locked in fierce debate on almost every issue on the table, including procedural legitimacy and the impartiality of committee members, making a swift resolution on the high-profile case seem like a distant prospect.

The committee will decide among five levels of punishment, with dismissal the heaviest and reprimand the lightest. If the committee goes with a salary reduction -- the second-lightest punishment -- or heavier, it will be the president who will execute the disciplinary action against Yoon.

The committee is composed of seven field experts, including the justice minister. It needs more than four members in attendance to proceed with deliberation, from which Choo recused herself, as she is the one who sought to discipline Yoon.

These photos show Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (R). (Yonhap)

The chief prosecutor decided not to attend the meeting in apparent protest against what he claimed to be procedural errors and lack of cooperation from the ministry over sharing information regarding the matter. Yoon's three legal advisers attended.

The controversial meeting was twice delayed amid protest both from Yoon, who strongly complained about unconstitutionality of the process and lack of time to prepare, and from rank-and-file and senior prosecutors, who voiced concern about infringement on the prosecution's core value of political neutrality.

The flag of the prosecution service is unfurled at the Supreme Prosecutors Office in Seoul on Dec. 10, 2020. (Yonhap)

jaeyeon.woo@yna.co.kr
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