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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on March 31)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:04 March 31, 2022

About-face on a special prosecutor

When a smooth transition is needed between President Moon Jae-in and President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, the Ministry of Justice has become a major source of problems. After squarely opposing Yoon's campaign promise to stop justice ministers from commanding the prosecution, Justice Minister Park Beom-gye on Wednesday said he will consider the idea of appointing a special prosecutor to investigate the Daejang-dong development scandal allegedly involving former ruling Democratic Party (DP) presidential candidate Lee Jae-myung and President-elect Yoon. Minister Park continued ignoring growing demands for the appointment of a special prosecutor to get to the bottom of the case, but all of a sudden changed his position to push Yoon into a corner.

Expression of different views is natural in a democracy, as seen in the ongoing war of nerves between the incoming and outgoing powers over Yoon's plan to relocate the presidential office to Yongsan. Nevertheless, such disputes did not cause any cancellation of briefings by government ministries to the president-elect ahead of his inauguration on May 10, except the justice ministry.

First of all, you need to find the reasons for Yoon's transition committee to show a sensitive reaction to Minister Park's remarks. Park and his predecessor Choo Mi-ae brazenly showed political bias to the extent of shaking the independence and neutrality of the prosecution. As Park's repeated opposition to the authority of the justice minister to command the prosecutor general suggest, he exercised it once — and Choo three times. The two ministers used their authority to command the prosecutor whenever they needed to pressure then-prosecutor general Yoon.

Park's scheme to recommend a special prosecutor over the land development scandal also makes us doubt his real intention. Just four months ago, he appeared at the National Assembly and denied the efficacy of appointing a special prosecutor. "If I mention it, that's the same as directly denying the results of investigations of the case I oversee," he said. Despite severe criticisms of the prosecution's dilly-dallying probes, he did not take any action. Why did he suddenly change his position?

Not a few experts cite the need for a special prosecutor to look into the case to clear lingering suspicions about the massive profits for a few developers. But lawmaker-turned-justice ministers put the brakes on appointing a special prosecutor for fear of worrisome results for the government. The Moon administration wants to deprive the prosecution of its rights to directly investigate and give them to the police, but it is not desirable for justice. The most urgent thing is to prevent politicians with political bias from being appointed as a justice minister.
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