Justice Minister Cho Kuk reiterated his determination to reform the prosecution as a new 16-member prosecution reform committee tasked with drawing up measures to overhaul the powerful law enforcement body was launched Monday.
Mentioning the candlelight vigil held Saturday supporting Cho and the reform of the prosecution, he said that the public’s aspirations for reforming the judiciary is stronger than ever.
“Koreans are questioning who are the owners of this country once again by calling for the reform of the prosecution and are demanding that unelected power should be checked,” Cho said at the launch ceremony.
The committee made up of professors, women’s rights activist, lawyers, prosecutors and a Justice Ministry official is headed by Kim Nam-joon, a lawyer and member of the first reform committee.
The committee is tasked with drawing up measures which can be instituted without legislation, to push for reforming the prosecution and the Justice Ministry.
The Moon Jae-in administration has sought to curb the powers of the prosecution, which has the exclusive authority to open and close probes as well as file charges, as part of its judicial reform drive.
The government seeks to hand over more investigative authority to police and establish an independent body tasked with looking into corruption allegations involving high-ranking government officials. These measures require the passage of related bills.
The committee will meet once a week and convene an extraordinary session if necessary to review and vote on major reform agenda items, after which it will make its recommendations to the justice minister.
Cho is accelerating the reform efforts amid an apparent growing power struggle between the prosecution and Justice Ministry, which oversees personnel and administration of the prosecutors’ office.
Prosecutors are also speeding up their probe into allegations that Cho’s family made dubious investments and committed academic fraud involving their children. His wife is expected to be summoned for questioning this week.
The country has been sharply divided over the scandal, with a massive candlelight protest on Saturday near the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office supporting the Moon administration’s reform drive and denouncing the prosecution as politically charged.
The opposition bloc, on the other hand, is stepping up the political offensive after it was revealed that Cho had made a phone call to a prosecutor in charge of the raid on his home last week.
A separate rally was also held -- one across the street from the mass candlelight rally in southern Seoul -- demanding Cho’s resignation.