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(LEAD) Moon highlights importance of anti-corruption investigation agency for prosecution reform

All News 15:24 December 15, 2020

(ATTN: UPDATES with details in paras 7-8)

SEOUL, Dec. 15 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in said Tuesday that the envisioned launch of a powerful corruption investigation agency is very meaningful as it can serve as a systemic tool to keep the prosecution in check.

"The Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) is highly significant, as it can serve as a tool to democratically regulate the prosecution," Moon said during a weekly Cabinet meeting held at the government complex in Seoul. He presided over the meeting from Cheong Wa Dae through a video link.

President Moon Jae-in speaks via videoconference during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Dec. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

President Moon Jae-in speaks via videoconference during a Cabinet meeting at the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Dec. 15, 2020. (Yonhap)

Last week, parliament approved a bill on facilitating the launch of the CIO, a major policy initiative of Moon. The ruling party spearheaded the passage in spite of strong protests by the main opposition party.

The non-prosecution body will be tasked with investigating corruption among senior government officials. Prosecutors are among civil servants subject to the CIO's probe over alleged corruption.

"The CIO can serve as a systemic tool to sternly hold the prosecution accountable for its internal corruption and misdeeds," the president stated.

Moon also said that the prosecution has become a subject of public criticism, arguing that the power institution has become a "sacred ground" that is not held responsible for wrongdoings while wielding enormous state power.

Moon's comments on the CIO, timed for the bill's passage during the Cabinet meeting, are seen as aimed at providing political momentum toward the administration's long-sought goal of reforming the prosecution.

The comments also appear to be aimed at rallying the president's supporters around the goal in light of Moon's recent record low approval ratings in polls. The justice ministry's move toward disciplining Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl for alleged misconduct was perceived as a major factor.

The president also rebuked criticism from the opposition that the CIO is a tool that would allow a dictatorship.

"As we're adding another sword against potential power abuse by the administration, it's hard to comprehend how this can be linked to the idea of a dictatorship," Moon argued.

Moon also stressed the importance of working together across the political spectrum to allow the CIO to perform its duty under strict political neutrality.

A bill to establish the CIO was approved in December last year and the legislation took effect in July. But its launch has been delayed amid political disputes over the choice of its first leader.

Moon has expressed his expectation that the CIO will be formally set up at the start of 2021.


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