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(4th LD) Moon promulgates prosecution reform legislation

Politics 16:51 May 03, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with PPP reaction; ADDS 2nd photo; TRIMS)
By Kim Deok-hyun and Joo Kyung-don

SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday promulgated two controversial bills on prosecution reform at the final Cabinet meeting before his term ends next week, paving the way for eventually stripping the prosecution of its power to investigate.

The promulgation came hours after the ruling Democratic Party (DP) railroaded the last remaining bill on prosecution reform through the National Assembly amid opposition protest, completing its push to reduce and ultimately remove the prosecution's investigative powers.

"Concerns about political neutrality, fairness and selective justice in the prosecution's investigation have still not been resolved," Moon said of the need for prosecution reform. "And there are evaluations that (reforms) have not been enough to win public trust, which is why the National Assembly has taken a step further in separating investigations and indictment."

Outgoing President Moon Jae-in (3rd from R) salutes the national flag during his last Cabinet meeting at the presidential office in Seoul on May 3, 2022. His term will be over on May 9. (Yonhap)

One of the laws is aimed at limiting the scope of the prosecution's supplementary investigations, while the other is to reduce the prosecution's investigative powers to only two types of crimes -- corruption and economic crimes -- from the current six before removing them completely.

The main opposition People Power Party (PPP) expressed frustration and anger.

"It did not even take a day for the country's 74-year-old criminal justice system to collapse and for parliamentary democracy and the rule of law to die," the PPP's floor spokesperson Park Hyeung-soo said. "What do they really want to achieve by depriving the prosecution of its investigative powers?"

The PPP claimed that separating investigation and prosecution rights is not a trend that can be seen in advanced countries and that it will cause "extreme inefficiency" in the criminal justice system.

The legislation will go into effect four months after its promulgation.

The DP and the PPP have been wrangling for weeks over the bills on prosecution reform, as the DP has insisted they are necessary to ensure the prosecution does not abuse its investigative powers for political purposes, while the PPP has countered they will leave the people with fewer means to seek justice for crimes.

The two sides reached a compromise deal under which the prosecution's investigative powers would be reduced from six crime types to two before being removed completely, but the PPP backtracked following criticism that lawmakers colluded to shield themselves from prosecution investigations, as the agreement calls for stripping the prosecution of its right to investigate election crimes.

Lawmakers pass a revision to the Criminal Procedure Act, the remaining half of the ruling Democratic Party's prosecution reform legislation, at a plenary session at the National Assembly in Seoul on May 3, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The DP, which holds 171 out of 300 seats, has tried to pass the two bills and get them signed into law before the May 10 inauguration of President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol, because Yoon would be expected to veto the bills.

Hours before Moon promulgated the bills, the prosecution again implored Moon to use his veto.

"We earnestly appeal to the president to exercise the right to demand reconsideration as the guardian of the rule of law and democracy, so that the revision of the criminal justice system can be carried out through in-depth discussion and deliberation and public support," the Supreme Prosecutors Office said in a press release.

kdh@yna.co.kr
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