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Yoon will pick independent inspector general if parties recommend candidates: official

Politics 17:05 May 31, 2022

SEOUL, May 31 (Yonhap) -- President Yoon Suk-yeol will name an independent inspector general to investigate corruption among his family members and senior aides if the ruling and opposition parties recommend three candidates in accordance with the law, a presidential official said Tuesday.

The remark came a day after a different presidential official told Yonhap News Agency that Yoon does not plan to appoint an independent inspector general, because he believes all probes into the president's family and senior aides can be conducted by the prosecution and police.

President Yoon Suk-yeol answers reporters' questions upon arriving for work at the presidential office in Seoul on May 30, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol answers reporters' questions upon arriving for work at the presidential office in Seoul on May 30, 2022. (Pool photo) (Yonhap)

The alleged reasoning for not appointing such an inspector, who is under the president but in an independent role, was that Yoon did not want the presidential office to have any part in investigations.

"(The president's nomination of an independent inspector general) is something that has to be done and not something that is subject to arbitrary rules," said the presidential official who spoke to reporters Tuesday, referring to the law governing the inspector general system.

Once the rival parties recommend three candidates, the president is required to choose one, and that candidate undergoes a parliamentary confirmation process before being appointed by the president.

Yoon has already abolished the office of the senior presidential secretary for civil affairs, which was often accused of orchestrating politically-motivated investigations.

But the reported plan to forgo an inspector general led to concern within the ruling People Power Party that Yoon was breaking a campaign pledge and criticism within the main opposition Democratic Party that the president was letting his family and senior aides run free with no external checks.

Yoon, a former prosecutor who served as prosecutor general before quitting to run for president last year, came under fire during the campaign over a series of alleged ethical lapses involving first lady Kim Keon-hee and her mother.

Meanwhile, the presidential official apologized for "causing confusion" the previous day by suggesting the presidential office could consider abolishing the office of the independent inspector general.

The apology came after Rep. Chang Je-won, known as one of Yoon's closest confidants, called out the presidential office in a Facebook post Monday night, saying he can say with certainty that Yoon's reported decision to skip the appointment of an inspector general is "groundless."

The office of the independent inspector general was established under then President Park Geun-hye in 2014 to conduct investigations into alleged irregularities committed by the president's spouse and close relatives, up to and including first cousins, and presidential officials ranking equal to or above a senior presidential secretary.

Park's successor, Moon Jae-in, did not appoint a single inspector general during his term.


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