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Yoon Seok-youl appointed chief prosecutor, against opposition

Opposition accuses Moon of dominating prosecution

President Moon Jae-in on Tuesday appointed Yoon Seok-youl as the new prosecutor-general, running headlong into fierce criticism from the opposition.

Yoon’s term as prosecutor-general will begin July 25, replacing Moon Moo-il as the country’s top prosecutor. 

Yoon Seok-youl. Yonhap
Yoon Seok-youl. Yonhap

With Moon forging ahead with Yoon’s appointment, the president has now appointed 16 individuals to high-level posts without the parliament adopting a confirmation hearing report.

Under the law, a large number of high-level posts are subject to parliamentary confirmation hearings, after which political parties decide whether to adopt a hearing report. However, most posts that require confirmation hearings do not require parliamentary approval for the president to appoint the nominee.

In nominating Yoon for the post, the presidential office had stated that he has fought corruption and unfair practices throughout his career, and that he was deemed fit to oversee the reform of the prosecution.

Yoon was a key member of the special prosecutorial team that investigated the corruption and power abuse scandal involving former President Park Geun-hye and her longtime confidante Choi Sun-sil. He also led the probe into allegations that the National Intelligence Service interfered with the 2012 presidential election.

Yoon’s appointment is likely to further aggravate the feud in the National Assembly that has bogged down proceedings, including approval of the supplementary budget, for months.

“The president says that Yoon Seok-youl is the right man for prosecution reform, but who will trust a reform conducted by a lying prosecutor-general?” said Rep. Oh Shin-hwan, floor leader of minor conservative opposition Bareunmirae Party.

“President Moon Jae-in will be recorded in history as the symbol of self-righteousness who incapacitated the confirmation hearing system,” he said, comparing the number of officials appointed without a parliamentary confirmation hearing report during Moon’s term and that of former President Lee Myung-bak.

According to Oh, 17 minister-level officials were appointed during Lee’s administration without a parliamentary report.

Ahead of Yoon’s appointment, the main opposition Liberty Korea Party said that Moon’s appointment of Yoon would be “declaring that (Moon’s) domination of the prosecution is complete.”

The conservative bloc had raised a number of allegations against Yoon, and called on him to forfeit his nomination.

In addition to accusations that Yoon was picked for his political inclinations, the main opposition raised allegations of perjury against the new chief prosecutor.

During the parliamentary confirmation hearing, Yoon had testified that he was not involved in any manner in a case surrounding Yoon Woo-jin, the former head of the National Tax Service’s Yongsan District Office.

The former tax official is the elder brother of Yoon Dae-jin, chief of the Criminal Affairs Bureau of the Ministry of the Justice. The two Yoons are unrelated to the new prosecutor-general.

Yoon Woo-jin was accused of receiving bribes from a businessman, but was acquitted in 2015.

According to the opposition, Yoon introduced lawyer Lee Nam-seok to Yoon Woo-jin, violating the Act on Attorney-at-Law, citing a recording of Yoon made in 2012. In the recording, Yoon is heard telling a journalist that he had introduced Lee to the former tax official.

Yoon, however, denied the allegations at the parliamentary hearing, prompting the opposition to accuse him of perjury. At the hearing, Yoon was also heard saying that he thinks he made the 2012 statement to the journalist in order to protect Yoon Dae-jin.

By Choi He-suk (