Top prosecutor abolishes special investigation divisions
Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl announced plans Tuesday to abolish special investigation units in all prosecution offices nationwide, excluding those at three key offices, as part of reform measures.
The move comes a day after President Moon Jae-in sent a direct order to him to initiate major prosecutorial reforms to increase public trust in the organization.
Moon’s order followed a street rally Saturday organized to criticize the prosecution for “unfair investigation practices” which is allegedly shown in its ongoing probe into allegations of corruption against Justice Minister Cho Kuk and his family. According to the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, Yoon ordered the immediate abolishment of the units except for three including one at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office.
The special units were formed to investigate high-profile cases such as politicians’ influence-peddling, corrupt ties between politics and business, and large-scale financial scams.
The unit at the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office is currently handling the case of Cho’s family.
In addition, all prosecutors who have been dispatched to other government organizations will return to their previous offices and take charge of criminal investigations and case trials. The dispatch of prosecutors to government organizations has been heavily criticized by the public and seen as a way to expand prosecutorial influence and power.
Yoon also said the prosecution will review its practice of investigation and make changes where necessary, such as the public summoning of suspects, leaks of investigation information and questioning at night, to better protect suspects’ human rights and privacy. Before doing this, however, it will seek the opinions of human rights activists.
President Moon pledged to reform the prosecution to reduce its power during his election campaign.
While Cho was tapped as the justice minister to carry out the reform, the prosecution launched a massive investigation into allegations involving him and his family. The investigation has been seen by Cheong Wa Dae as a show of resistance to reform.
Moon also ordered Yoon to map out internal reform measures as soon as possible, sending a strong warning to him. The president stressed that the state prosecutors should actively join the reform drive voluntarily, urging them to present detailed measures through internal discussions.
President Moon Jae-in inspects an honor guard from the presidential limousine, at an Air Force base in Daegu, Tuesday, while participating in a ceremony celebrating the 71st Armed Forces Day. In the background is an F-35A stealth jet which South Korea showcased for the first time.