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(LEAD) Interior ministry speeds up establishment of new bureau to directly oversee police

Politics 16:46 June 22, 2022

(ATTN: UPDATES with police, firefighters response in last 2 paras)
By Kim Han-joo

SEOUL, June 22 (Yonhap) -- An envisioned "police bureau" under the interior ministry is expected to come into being in two to three weeks, officials said Wednesday, as the ministry is speeding up the establishment to increase its control of the law enforcement agency.

A police reform advisory committee under the ministry unveiled a set of recommendations Tuesday, including to create the "police bureau," despite concerns that the move could put the law enforcement agency under political influence.

On Wednesday, the recommendations were reported to Minister Lee Sang-min. The proposals are advisory, but they are mostly likely to be adopted as is since the committee was set up at the instruction of Lee.

Officials said the envisioned bureau can be established through a presidential decree and other enforcement ordinances that can be implemented immediately after a preannouncement of legislation. That means the bureau can be set up as early as in the next two to three weeks.

The plan came as police are set to take on more investigative roles from the prosecution under a new law aimed at reducing and ultimately abolishing the prosecution's investigative powers.

The advisory committee recommended giving the interior ministry the right to recommend candidates for top police positions and the interior minister the right to demand disciplinary measures for the chief of the National Police Agency and other senior police officials.

It marks the first time in 31 years for the interior ministry to exercise direct control of police since the law enforcement agency was spun off as an outside organization of the ministry in 1991 as part of efforts to ensure its independence and neutrality.

An advisory panel of the National Police Agency issued a statement objecting to the plan.

"The recommendations mean political control of the police ... they seriously impair the police's political neutrality and independence," the NPA's Investigation Deliberation Commmittee said.

A banner is hung at the National Police Agency in Seoul on June 22, 2022, in protest of the establishment of a police bureau under the interior ministry. (Yonhap)


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