Amid heightening tension between the country’s police and prosecution, Prosecutor-General Moon Moo-il is to cut short an overseas official trip and return home over the weekend, the prosecution said Friday.
In light of his criticism of the fast-tracked bill that realigns investigative authority between the police and prosecution earlier this week, Moon’s latest move has sparked the possibility of a resignation.
There are precedents of previous administrations’ prosecutor-generals stepping down from the post in response to changes in investigative powers.
Igniting fierce rebuttal from the police, Moon condemned the revision, saying it “goes against the fundamentals of democracy of checks and balances.” He claims that the change would give police excessive authority to investigate suspects.
The police objected to Moon’s argument saying “prosecutors can intervene in police investigations with a warrant. Also if a person related to a case closed by the police with the charges dropped makes an appeal, they have to transfer the case to the prosecution,” adding that the prosecution can request the police to reopen investigations and conduct supplementary investigations.
The revision centers on allocating investigative rights to the police and rescinding the prosecution’s right to command investigations.
As a means to check its power, the prosecution is to be given rights to request additional investigation, punishment or exclusion from duty in case the police unjustifiably refuse to conduct supplementary investigations, among others.
Composed of 3,000 prosecutors, the prosecution currently holds the authority to investigate suspects and the sole power to indict cases. It is attempting to hold on to its power in the face of public consensus calling for a realignment of authority with police.
Moon initially sought to resign shortly after the bill on adjusting investigative power was put on the fast track at the parliamentary special committee on judiciary reform earlier this week.
As his term ends in two months he has decided hold back from doing so to contain confusion within the prosecution.
Meanwhile, ruling Democratic Party floor leader Hong Young-pyo said “it is difficult to understand” Moon’s remarks on grounds that “the prosecution is part of a government body and criticizing a decision agreed to by parties at the National Assembly, which is a representative body of citizens, goes against democracy.”
Hong added he is aware of prosecutor-turned-lawmakers within the party who have expressed discontent over the bill, and that a thorough discussion would take place to fine-tune the details.
Cheong Wa Dae has not yet made an official statement regarding the conflict between the prosecution and police.
By Kim Bo-gyung (email@example.com