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(EDITORIAL from Korea Times on April 11)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:00 April 11, 2022

Reckless legislative move
DPK should not try to tame prosecution

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) has invited criticism for its push to deprive the state prosecution of its investigative power to weaken the law enforcement agency. The liberal party plans to enact a law to limit the prosecution's authority to indict criminal suspects. Yet this plan has prompted a backlash not only from the prosecution, but also from the main conservative opposition People Power Party (PPP).

The DPK has defended its legislative move, claiming that the bill is part of broader reforms aimed at preventing prosecutors from abusing their investigative power. The move came after the Moon Jae-in administration already initiated reforms to end the prosecution's monopoly on indicting suspects and give more investigative power to police.

Moon's reform package has already weakened the prosecution which is now able to investigate only six major crimes related to economy, graft, grave accidents, defense procurement, and elections. Previously, the prosecution could exercise its investigative power in any criminal case. The government also created the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) last year to take over high-profile corruption cases from the prosecution.

Prosecution reform was part of Moon's campaign pledges. It should have been pushed to promote the prosecution's political neutrality and independence to ensure fair investigations and the rule of law. However it had apparently more to do with making the law enforcement agency weak in a bid to prevent it from investigating corrupt officials and politicians, especially core members of the ruling elite.

Nothing could reveal the true intention of the government's prosecution reform better than a 2019 corruption and admission fraud case involving former Justice Minister Cho Kuk, one of Moon's close confidants. The administration and the DPK did all they could to prevent then Prosecutor General Yoon Suk-yeol, now the president-elect, from digging the dirt on Cho and his family. The ruling camp sped up stripping the prosecution of much of its investigative power in the name of prosecution reform.

Now the DPK is under fire for trying to completely deprive the prosecution of its investigative power. Its draft bill calls for the creation of a new law enforcement body to take over the investigative role of the prosecution. In a nutshell, the ruling party is seeking to turn the prosecution into a toothless tiger before the Yoon Suk-yeol administration is inaugurated May 10. The DPK, which has 172 seats in the 300-member National Assembly, is apparently trying to railroad the new bill this month so that Moon can sign it into law before his term ends.

It is wrong for the DPK to attempt to block the prosecution from launching a probe into a set of corruption and power abuse cases of the outgoing government. Such cases could include Moon's alleged involvement in manipulating an economic assessment of the aged Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor to press ahead with his nuclear energy phase-out policy. Also among them is a suspicion that Moon was implicated in intervening in a local election to help his friend, Song Cheol-ho, to become mayor of Ulsan in 2018.

The DPK must stop its reckless legislative bid. It has made no effort to gain bipartisan support or build a national consensus on the matter. Last Friday, the Supreme Public Prosecutors Office issued a statement opposing the bill. The DPK should make efforts to guarantee the neutrality and independence of the prosecution, instead of trying to tame it.
(END)

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