President urges prosecution to map out reform plan
Moon’s message seen as yet another strong warning
President Moon Jae-in sent a direct order to Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-yeol, Monday, to come up with measures to increase the public’s trust in the prosecution following a street rally in southern Seoul, Saturday, held in support of embattled Justice Minister Cho Kuk’s initiative for judicial reform.
This is the second time in four days for Moon to send a strong message to the prosecution, which is carrying out an investigation into corruption allegations involving the former senior presidential aide for civil affairs.
The message delivered Monday through spokeswoman Ko Min-jung carried a sterner tone in that it contained a direct message for the top prosecutor, who was not even present at a briefing given by Cho at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday, on measures to overhaul the prosecution. Once again, Moon stressed the importance of regaining the public’s trust.
“I order the prosecutor-general to listen to the voices calling for the prosecution’s reform and swiftly present measures for its transformation into an agency that is trusted by the people. For this, the prosecution must collect the opinions of young prosecutors and women prosecutors, as well as those working in the criminal investigation and trial departments.”
The message is seen as yet another strong warning to the prosecution, whose thorough investigation regarding Cho has been seen by Cheong Wa Dae as a show of resistance to judicial reform measures being pushed by Moon, including limiting prosecutor’s investigative powers.
Also, the remarks reflect the President’s determination not to back down in the lingering political storm in the aftermath of his controversial appointment of the former law professor to justice minister earlier this month despite the wide-ranging allegations of wrongdoing involving Cho and his family members.
Moon showed his strong backing of Cho by ordering a briefing on judicial reform despite widespread criticism from the opposition that a person whose family members are undergoing prosecutorial investigations is not fit to serve as justice minister.
“All of the measures prepared by the justice minister are necessary for judicial reform,” Moon said. “The Ministry of Justice and the prosecution must work together regarding judicial reform. The ministry should play a central role in the institutional aspects of the reform, and the prosecution must spearhead the changes in the exercise of its authority, its investigative practices and organizational culture.”
The President urged the prosecution to be more “humble” before the public. “All state powers must be humble before the people. In particular, state agencies with power must be subject to strong democratic control,” he said. “Under this administration, the independence of the prosecution’s investigative rights has made noticeable progress, but there is still strong criticism that it has not done enough to advance the exercising of the prosecution’s rights, investigation practices and organizational culture.”
With repeated warnings from Moon against the prosecution, political clashes over the Cho controversy are expected to get fiercer in the coming weeks.
“The Moon administration is the one that needs to be subject to the people’s judgment for reform. It is meddling in the investigation and threatening the prosecution,” main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn said during a party meeting Monday.
The timing of Cho’s briefing to the President drew keen attention as it followed a rally in Seocho-dong. Cheong Wa Dae said that the briefing, the first by Cho since his appointment earlier this month, was a customary one given to the President by a Cabinet member. “Various ministries have given reports, either at the President’s instruction or when necessary as seen by the ministry,” a presidential aide told reporters during a briefing at the presidential office, Monday.
Cheong Wa Dae said that for now, there is no specific plan for the President to be briefed on the prosecution’s reform by the prosecutor-general directly.
President Moon Jae-in speaks in a meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, Monday, after Justice Minister Cho Kuk gave a report on his plans to reform the prosecution. The President said the prosecution — which is investigating corruption scandals involving Cho and his family members — lacks the will to overhaul itself.