Justice minister strengthens grip on prosecution with reshuffle

08-Aug-2020 Intellasia | KoreaTimes | 6:50 AM Print This Post

Justice minister Choo Mi-ae filled key posts in Korea’s prosecutors’ office with pro-Moon Jae-in officials, Friday, a move expected to further chip away at the power of Prosecutor general Yoon Seok-youl.

The minister kept Lee Seong-yoon as head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office, one of the most important positions at the prosecution. Lee recently made headlines by standing up against Yoon publicly in dealing with a case involving a journalist and a prosecutor who is one of Yoon’s close supporters.

The minister moved Lee Jong-geun who used to work closely with former Justice minister Cho Kuk, a close ally of President Moon Jae-in, to head up the Criminal Investigation Division, and Shim Jae-cheol to lead the Human Resources and Budget Division. Shim made headlines last year for his support of Cho, currently on trial with his wife on corruption charges.

Prosecutors close to the prosecutor general were excluded from the “reshuffle,” according to experts.

There was no immediate reaction from Yoon.

Friday’s announcement was anticipated as it came right after another round of clashes between Choo and the prosecutor general.

Earlier this week, Yoon indirectly likened the Moon administration to a totalitarian regime during a speech at a welcoming event for new prosecutors. He also encouraged them to put pressure on people in power by conducting thorough investigations, instead of kneeling down before them.

For decades, prosecutors often had ties to corrupt politicians and were often involved in cases brought against them, which they dealt with favourably. President Moon took office with a pledge to reform the prosecution and kept this pledge by getting a reform bill passed by the National Assembly.

Moon appointed Yoon to oversee the reforms but he quickly became a headache when he launched investigations into corruption allegations made against people who were close to the President.

One example was former minister Cho, while another was Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho who allegedly won the 2018 election through illegal help from Cheong Wa Dae. Both Cho and Song are close allies to Moon.

Moon and his supporters said the investigations into Cho and Song were politically motivated.

The clash between Yoon and Choo started in January when she was appointed justice minister.

In addition to moving prosecutors around against Yoon’s wishes, Choo has pushed to reduce his power. Against this backdrop came a case involving Han Dong-hoon, Yoon’s ally, in which Han allegedly conspired with a cable news channel journalist to blackmail a businessperson to get information about one of Moon’s allies. The Seoul District Prosecutor’s Office indicted the journalist earlier this week, but failed to find any evidence against Han.

The rift between Yoon and Choo was made public and continues.

In late July, an ad hoc committee within the ministry made recommendations that would further reduce the power of Yoon in handling individual cases.



Category: Korea

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