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Interior ministry to launch police bureau next month to directly oversee police

Politics 13:47 July 15, 2022

SEOUL, July 15 (Yonhap) -- A new bureau overseeing key personnel and policy decisions for police will go into operation under the interior ministry next month, Minister Lee Sang-min said Friday, as his ministry seeks to tighten its grip over the law enforcement agency.

The "police bureau" will come into being on Aug. 2 following the Cabinet's planned authorization of revisions of relevant enforcement ordinances, the minister said in a press conference, announcing a sweeping police reform plan.

The plan came as police are set to take on more investigative roles from the prosecution under new laws aimed at reducing and ultimately abolishing the investigative powers of the prosecution, long accused of political meddling and abuse of power.

But critics say the move could put the police under political influence.

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.

Lee said the new bureau will be in charge of submitting key policy and law proposals regarding police to the Cabinet for approval and recommending candidates for top police positions.

A senior superintendent general, the third-highest police rank, will be assigned to head the bureau to be staffed with a total of 16 personnel, 12 of them from the police, according to the minister.

The ministry will also come up with a set of regulations giving the interior minister the rights to approve or reject police's key policy decisions and have reports from the police on key issues, including the police budget.

Under the regulations, the interior minister will be entitled to get advance reports on key enactment proposals or other issues police submit to the Cabinet for approval as well as the national police chief's overseas business trip plans.

The interior minister will also be able to demand police's reports on how well they are fulfilling instructions from the president, the prime minister and the minister.

Under the reform plan, the police workforce will also be increased in the second half of this year to better respond to economic and cyberspace crimes, while a new 13-member police system enhancement committee will be established under the prime minister's office to follow up on the latest reform measures, Lee said.

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min explains a new police reform plan in Seoul on July 15, 2022. (Yonhap)

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min explains a new police reform plan in Seoul on July 15, 2022. (Yonhap)


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