The fallout from troubles between the justice minister and the prosecutor general is engulfing the political arena and generating speculation about President Moon Jae-in’s next move.
On Tuesday, Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl gained higher ground in the battle with Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae, with both the courts and a Justice Ministry committee putting out conclusions favorable to Yoon. The Seoul Administrative Court approved an injunction against Yoon’s suspension from duty, and Yoon immediately returned to work. In addition, the Justice Ministry’s inspection committee said the process of auditing Yoon and requesting that he be penalized was unjust.
With Tuesday’s developments putting Yoon at an advantage, the opposition bloc raised the heat on the ruling Democratic Party and on Moon.
“(The ruling bloc) must remember that making an overreaching move to remove Yoon will result in a situation that will be regretted as seen in past administrations,” Kim Chong-in, interim leader of the main opposition People Power Party, said Wednesday.
Former conservative lawmaker and presidential contender Yoo Seong-min also voiced a warning, saying Moon’s plans to remove Yoon had failed.
“The time has come for President Moon Jae-in to make a choice. It seems even an imperial president has no choice faced with the court’s decision,” Yoo wrote on his social media account.
Saying Moon must choose between Choo and Yoon, Yoo said Moon must resolve the situation that he created.
“If (Moon) removes the prosecutor general and keeps the minister on, the people will rise up,” Yoo wrote, adding that removing both Choo and Yoon would be a cheap trick.
Yoo was referring to speculation that Moon might ask both of them to step down as a compromise.
The ruling party, for its part, stressed the importance of prosecutorial reform, an issue that was overshadowed by the Choo-Yoon conflict.
At Wednesday’s party meeting, Democratic Party leaders stressed the need for reform several times, with party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon hinting that prosecutorial reform was at the root of the troubles between the justice minister and the chief prosecutor.
“Our society is experiencing very big pains. The starting point of the issue is prosecutorial reform,” Lee said. Since the beginning of the conflict between Choo and Yoon, the ruling bloc has claimed that Yoon was resisting the drive to reform the prosecution.
Saying that prosecutorial reform cannot be compromised, Lee went on to accuse the prosecutors’ office of resisting change.
“The people do not sufficiently trust (the prosecutors’ office) because it appears that the prosecutors’ office is resisting reform,” Lee said, adding that the party would continue with prosecutorial reform with “firm resolve.”
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com