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(EDITORIAL from Korea Herald on April 18)

Editorials from Korean dailies 07:05 April 18, 2022

Stop legislation
DP starts process to strip prosecution of investigative powers; Moon silent 

The Democratic Party of Korea on Friday submitted bills to revise the criminal procedure law and the prosecution office law to strip away completely the prosecution's investigative powers.

On the back of its parliamentary majority, the party started the legislative process to block investigations of allegations involving the Moon Jae-in administration and former Gyeonggi Province Governor Lee Jae-myung, who was the Democratic Party's presidential candidate.

The party and the administration already reduced the prosecution's investigative powers to six fields of serious crimes -- corruption, the economy, public officials, elections, defense businesses and major disasters. Now the party is moving to remove even the remaining investigative powers and hand them over to the police or a new investigation agency.

The party's goal is to promulgate the revised laws at Moon's last Cabinet meeting on May 3.

If the prosecution is stripped of all its investigative powers, ways to rectify faulty police investigations will effectively disappear. It is also questionable if police can investigate crimes by those in power as effectively as prosecutors do.

Hwang Un-ha, one of the Democratic Party lawmakers who pushed strongly for the revision of the laws, said in a letter to fellow party lawmakers that abolishing the prosecution's investigative powers means that the powers will not be transferred to the police but "evaporate." The party touts the revision as a reform to curb the "unchecked" powers of the prosecution, but Hwang's remarks probably reveal the true intention behind revising the laws. Hwang is one of the defendants indicted by the prosecution over Cheong Wa Dae's alleged intervention in an Ulsan mayoral election.

The prosecution has investigated not only the election intervention allegations but also the manipulation of economic evaluation data of a nuclear power plant and the Daejang-dong land development scandal involving former Gyeonggi Gov. Lee. If its investigative powers are forfeited, further investigations will likely be blocked. Nothing is better for criminals than blocking investigations.

Deprivation of investigative powers also possibly violates the Constitution that authorizes prosecutors to request arrest and seizure warrants.

A recent poll found that 52.1 percent of people oppose the revision with 38.2 percent supporting it.

Most legal scholars and civic groups, even including those friendly to the Moon government, oppose the revision, not to mention prosecutors.

Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo requested a meeting with President Moon to ask him to veto the revised laws. But Moon effectively refused to meet Kim. An official of the presidential office said that "now is the National Assembly's time." While shunning a meeting with the prosecutor general he appointed, Moon is hiding behind the National Assembly. His refusal to express a stance is an evasion of responsibility and is effectively abetting the Democratic Party's push to break down the judicial system in order to cover up allegations that may involve himself. Prosecutor General Kim on Sunday submitted his resignation.

If the bills are passed, Moon will face a choice between promulgating the new laws and vetoing them. He ought to veto them. If he wants to avoid the burdensome situation, he should persuade Democratic Party lawmakers now against the legislation.

The Democratic Party cleared obstacles so that the bills can pass the related standing committee. If opposition party lawmakers filibuster in the plenary session as they vowed, the Democratic Party will likely respond by seeking to end the session and opening a new one. Under the National Assembly Law, if a session ends, the filibuster ends as well, and the filibustered bill can be automatically voted on in the following session.

Speaker Park Byeong-seug is scheduled to visit the US and Canada from April 23 to May 2. The Democratic Party will persuade Park to transfer his session-ending right to a vice speaker from the party. Park belonged to the Democratic Party before being elected speaker. He then switched to an independent.

Few law-governed democracies would pass a bill that will effectively dismantle the prosecution in order to block investigations of allegations involving those in power. If Park does nothing to stop the passage of the bills in question, it would be a stain on the history of the Korean democracy.

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