(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily April 18)

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Moon must break his silence

Attorney General Kim Oh-soo tendered his resignation on Sunday in protest at the ruling Democratic Party’s (PD) submission of two bills aimed at stripping the prosecution of its power to investigate once and for all. The resignation of a pro-government prosecutor with more than a year left in his term is shocking. Kim was appointed by President Moon Jae-in as attorney general last May.

Kim issued a statement lamenting the DP’s rejection of bills stripping the main law enforcement agency of its investigative power just a year after the redistribution of investigative power between the prosecution and police. Assuming responsibility for turning the highest law enforcement authority into a target of reform, Kim said: “Establishing a new system of criminal law requires at least 10 years of trial because it greatly affects the human rights of the people”.

The Attorney General appealed to the Ministry of Justice and the National Assembly against the removal of prosecutors’ power to investigate the remaining six crimes, including those related to corruption, the economy, public employees, elections, defense procurement and mass disasters. The submission of his resignation confirms the temerity of the DP’s legislative approach.

Kim’s announcement was anticipated when the DP on Friday submitted revisions to the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecution Act to a department handling the case within the legislature. On the very day of the submission, Kim pleaded with lawmakers to impeach him first. After President Moon refused Kim’s request to meet to explain the drawbacks of the review, prosecutors across the country vehemently resisted government pressure.

Bills are full of loopholes. According to the review, the police can wield tremendous power once they seize the investigative authority of the prosecution, but there is no mechanism to control the police. The current Criminal Procedure Law allows the Public Prosecutor’s Office to require the police to take action to correct human rights violations committed during investigations. But both bills eliminated the relevant section.

While the prosecution is forced to hand over to the police a number of sensitive cases under investigation after the revision comes into force, the ongoing investigations into the alleged intervention of the Blue House in the he mayoral election of Ulsan and the Moon administration’s apparent fabrication of data on the economic feasibility of shutting down the Wolseong reactor must end.

The DP’s relentless efforts to undermine the very foundations of the Korean judicial system after being emboldened by its supermajority in the legislature must be stopped. The time has come for President Moon and the Speaker of the National Assembly to put a stop to it.
(TO FINISH)

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