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(3rd LD) Top prosecutor files court injunction against disciplinary measure

All News 22:16 December 17, 2020

(ATTN: RECASTS headline, lead; UPDATES with more details in paras 3, 5)
By Lee Chi-dong

SEOUL, Dec. 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's chief prosecutor filed for an injunction in a Seoul court Thursday to halt the two-month suspension of his duty, his lawyer said.

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl is protesting against the justice ministry's disciplinary measure, sanctioned by President Moon Jae-in, in connection with multiple accounts of "ethical and legal misdeeds."

Yoon lodged a suit with the Seoul Administrative Court at around 9:20 p.m., calling for the withdrawal of the punishment and an injunction, Lee Wan-kyu, Yoon's lawyer, said in a statement to the press.

Yoon's duty was suspended as of the start of the day, as Moon approved the ministry's decision, 14 hours after it was announced early Wednesday morning. Yoon is accused of violating the "political neutrality" rule as leader of the state prosecution service. His lieutenants also carried out a secret inspection of judges handling high-profile cases, according to Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae.

If the court accepts Yoon's injunction request, Yoon could carry out his duty until the administrative suit calling for the punishment withdrawal reaches a conclusion.

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl leaves his office in southern Seoul after work on Dec. 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl leaves his office in southern Seoul after work on Dec. 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

Yoon has flatly denied the allegations, saying he has faithfully done his duty, while Choo believes that he is attempting to foil the Moon administration's prosecution reform drive.

Choo offered to resign, meanwhile, after briefing Moon on the unprecedented disciplinary decision against the country's prosecution chief.

The minister's move is viewed by many as meant to ease the political burden on the president and pressure Yoon to step down himself without a legal fight before the end of his two-year tenure in July next year. Moon's job approval rating has been on the decline partly due to the protracted feud between Choo and Yoon.

It is uncertain whether Moon will accept Choo's resignation offer or wait until a partial Cabinet reshuffle expected late this year or in early 2021.

Presidential aides are apparently concerned that following her departure, the feud may evolve into a situation where the president is seen as directly involved.

A view of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul (Yonhap)

A view of Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul (Yonhap)

A Cheong Wa Dae official told reporters earlier that Moon's office sees no need to respond formally to Yoon's push for bringing the matter to the administrative court.

"I don't think there's need for Cheong Wa Dae to reveal its position," he added on the customary condition of anonymity.

Regarding Choo's fate as justice minister, the official reiterated that Moon will make a decision after "careful consideration" on how to handle it.


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