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[Newsmaker] Opposition parties call for parliament-led probe into Choo-Yoon clash

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)
The Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office in Seocho-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)
Opposition parties on Friday submitted a written request for an investigation led by the National Assembly into the justice minister’s unprecedented action to suspend the top prosecutor from duty.

The request was signed by 110 lawmakers -- 103 from the main opposition People Power Party, three from the minor People’s Party and four independent lawmakers.

The procedural legitimacy of the disciplinary actions taken by Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl on Tuesday over his alleged power abuse and violation of code of conduct will be the key subject that the investigation will center on.

They will also scrutinize whether either Yoon or Choo damaged the prosecution’s independence and neutrality.

The opposition lawmakers proposed to form a special committee of 18 people to conduct the investigation, with nine each from the ruling party and opposition parties.

Since the prosecution chief was suspended from Tuesday, the minister has pushed ahead with her plan to hold a disciplinary committee meeting to decide the level of punishment to be imposed on Yoon. In the worst case scenario, he could lose his job, depending on the result of the meeting slated for Wednesday.

Hundreds of rank-and-file prosecutors nationwide stood up against Choo, arguing that her move was “illegal and unjust.” They said she had failed to follow due process under the law, and that the allegations leveled against Yoon had not been fully substantiated.

Responding to the backfire, the minister said Friday that her decision was made after putting sufficient effort and time into getting to the bottom of Yoon’s several allegations of wrongdoing.

A key allegation he faces is that he was involved in the illegal surveillance of judges to collect personal data, including their political tendencies, and share the information with other prosecutors.

“I couldn’t help but suspend him from duty by taking into account the severity and urgency of the surveillance report on judges, which damages the value of the Constitution,” Choo said in a statement.

Yoon’s legal actions to clear himself of suspicions are underway.

The Seoul Administrative Court will hold a hearing for a pretrial injunction sought by Yoon on Monday to quash the suspension order until the lawsuit he filed concludes.

He argued that six allegations cited by the minister for the suspension order are contrary to facts and that the procedure was unlawful, as he was not given a chance to vindicate himself.

By Park Han-na (