Battle over Cho Kuk
Parties should begin talks on prosecution reform
Conservatives and liberals are offering contrasting assessments about a massive rally held Saturday in southern Seoul to support the embattled Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his prosecution reform drive.
One sticking point being debated in the political scene is how many people participated in the rally, which took place on the streets near the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.
Organizers said some 1.5 million to 2 million people gathered there. However, using its own “scientific” methods of calculating the number of participants in a demonstration, the largest conservative Liberty Korea Party claimed only 50,000 were there at most, and that organizers inflated the number for their own political purposes. The police didn’t provide their own estimate.
How many participated in a rally has been used as a barometer of how powerful it was. Supporters of a rally tend to exaggerate the number of participants, while opponents cut it down. When it comes to a political rally, this tendency becomes more evident.
But the point is not that here. It is only frustrating to see the fuss about the estimates.
The fact is that an unusually large number of people gathered at the same place at the same time to demand reform, and no rally had taken place on such a large scale since the massive anti-government protests in 2016 and 2017 that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye. This is really an unusual case, and there should be a serious study on what made them take to the streets first.
Unfortunately, the controversy over the rally reflects how ideologically polarized this society is. Conservatives argue the liberal Moon Jae-in administration, using a “fabricated” number of supporters in the name of people power, is attempting to influence an ongoing investigation into corruption allegations surrounding Cho Kuk and his family. LKP leader Hwang Kyo-ahn, Monday, labeled Saturday’s rally as a “political event organized by pro-Moon forces in order to pressure prosecutors who are doing their job to prove the suspicions, and in defiance of the rule of law.”
He made it clear that his party will oppose the prosecutorial reform, saying the first thing to do is to have the prosecution investigate the suspicions involving Cho and his family thoroughly. If the outcome of the prosecution’s investigation is not satisfactory, the party plans to push for a separate investigation by an independent counsel.
These views seem quite out of touch with reality, considering the prosecution’s controversial handling of Cho’s case. Hwang needs to know that people participated in the rally because they believed the investigation was excessive and unfair. It also looks funny for the LKP to talk about the rule of law while scores of its lawmakers — who are under investigation for using violence to block fast-tracking of reform bills early this year — have spurned requests from the prosecution to appear for questioning.
Given the judicial reform is a political zeitgeist of this country at this time, there should be serious discussions on how the prosecution should be reformed, and the LKP should not make a mistake by alienating itself from the process.