Prose­cu­tion power to di­rect probes to be min­i­mized

Jus­tice min­is­ter un­veils prose­cu­tion re­form plan

The Korea Times - - FRONT PAGE - By Kang Seung-woo [email protected]­re­atimes.co.kr

Jus­tice Min­is­ter Cho Kuk an­nounced a set of re­form mea­sures for the prose­cu­tion Tues­day, mostly fo­cus­ing on re­duc­ing its power and in­stead re­in­forc­ing that of the min­istry.

The min­is­ter’s re­form plan was un­veiled one month af­ter he was in­au­gu­rated, Sept. 9, amid the prose­cu­tion’s widen­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion into scan­dals in­volv­ing him and his fam­ily mem­bers.

Cho’s fam­ily will likely be the im­me­di­ate ben­e­fi­cia­ries of the re­form mea­sures, al­though it was one of Pres­i­dent Moon Jae-in’s key prom­ises dur­ing his 2017 elec­tion cam­paign.

“The jus­tice min­istry will be­gin a dras­tic pros­e­cu­to­rial re­form this month by pick­ing top pri­or­ity projects that in­clude the prose­cu­tion’s re­cently an­nounced self-re­form mea­sures,” Cho said dur­ing a press con­fer­ence at the Gwacheon Govern­ment Com­plex.

The mea­sures are largely about re­duc­ing the prose­cu­tion’s power to di­rect in­ves­ti­ga­tions, and re­fo­cus­ing the law en­force­ment agency to­ward crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and trial-re­lated af­fairs. In ad­di­tion, the pros­e­cu­tors’ prac­tices will have to en­sure that the peo­ple’s hu­man rights are pro­tected.

As part of its ef­fort to re­duce the num­ber of prose­cu­tion directed in­ves­ti­ga­tions, the min­istry plans to ex­pand the crim­i­nal and crim­i­nal tri­als de­part­ments, while down­siz­ing di­rect in­ves­ti­ga­tion di­vi­sions.

“Con­sid­er­ing the prose­cu­tion’s pro­posal to abol­ish its spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive de­part­ments, we plan to push to re­vise rel­e­vant reg­u­la­tions to al­low just three of­fices, in­clud­ing the Seoul Cen­tral District Pros­e­cu­tor’s Of­fice, to have a unit deal­ing with high-pro­file cor­rup­tion cases,” Cho said.

In ad­di­tion, the min­istry will stop dis­patch­ing pros­e­cu­tors to in­ter­nal and ex­ter­nal govern­ment agen­cies by hav­ing a com­mit­tee re­view end­ing the un­nec­es­sary prac­tice.

As the prose­cu­tion’s in­ves­tiga­tive meth­ods have long been crit­i­cized for vi­o­lat­ing hu­man rights, the min­istry will ban pros­e­cu­tors from open­ing crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tions and car­ry­ing out long in­ter­ro­ga­tions late into the night.

In ad­di­tion, pros­e­cu­tors will be pro­hib­ited from ques­tion­ing sus­pects or wit­nesses about claims ir­rel­e­vant to them and from pro­long­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tions with­out rea­son­able cause. Peo­ple banned from leav­ing the coun­try will have a strength­ened right to know the rea­sons for this.

The min­istry also plans to strengthen su­per­vi­sion of the prose­cu­tion and its ad­min­is­tra­tive af­fairs.

The an­nounce­ment comes as the Moon ad­min­is­tra­tion is flex­ing its mus­cles to re­dis­tribute the prose­cu­tion’s ex­clu­sive in­ves­tiga­tive rights to the po­lice, while set­ting up an in­de­pen­dent unit to in­ves­ti­gate crimes by top govern­ment fig­ures and pros­e­cu­tors.

The prose­cu­tion has of­ten come un­der pub­lic crit­i­cism for abus­ing its mas­sive in­ves­tiga­tive power while cur­ry­ing fa­vor with those in power for its own in­ter­ests.

On Sept. 30, Moon is­sued a warn­ing to the prose­cu­tion, or­der­ing it to map out in­ter­nal re­form mea­sures as soon as pos­si­ble. This was fol­lowed by a se­ries of mea­sures an­nounced by Pros­e­cu­tor-Gen­eral Yoon Seoky­oul.

On Oct. 1, the prose­cu­tion said it would re­duce the num­ber of spe­cial in­ves­tiga­tive units, and abol­ish the prac­tice of an­nounc­ing the sum­mons of sus­pects that al­lowed the me­dia to wit­ness their ar­rival for ques­tion­ing.

The agency will no longer al­low the press to pho­to­graph sus­pects or wit­nesses ar­riv­ing for ques­tion­ing and “in prin­ci­ple” will not ques­tion them af­ter 9 p.m.

Yon­hap

Jus­tice Min­ster Cho Kuk an­nounces the min­istry’s plan to re­form the prose­cu­tion at the Gwacheon Govern­ment Com­plex, Tues­day.

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