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Blue House officiates 2-month suspension for top prosecutor, Justice Minister seeks to resign

Chung Man-ho, senior secretary for public communication at the Blue House, speaks during a press briefing Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Chung Man-ho, senior secretary for public communication at the Blue House, speaks during a press briefing Wednesday. (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl has been officially suspended from his post for the next two months following an executive order from President Moon Jae-in, the Blue House announced Wednesday night.

Chung Man-ho, senior secretary for public communication at the Blue House, said in a press briefing that Moon approved Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s recommendation to levy the penalization on Yoon that the ministry’s disciplinary committee decided early Wednesday morning.

The order came into effect immediately.

“The president expressed hopes for the order to serve as an opportunity for the prosecution to go upright,” Chung said. “We are in hopes for the order to put an end to the chaos and spur a fresh start.”

The disciplinary panel at 4 a.m. Wednesday voted to suspend Yoon from his post for two months, deeming him responsible for four of the six allegations brought against him.

The committee found Yoon responsible for surveillance of the judiciary, interference in a controversial case involving a TV journalist and failure to maintain political neutrality.

Yoon was also deemed responsible for holding an improper meeting with a media company owner and interfering in another investigation, but the panel decided not to impose disciplinary actions for those infractions.

There are five possible levels of punishment, with dismissal the heaviest and a reprimand the lightest.

The chief prosecutor has denied all the allegations from the outset and pledged to take legal action to fight the ruling, calling the suspension “illegal and unfair.”

He refused to attend the two committee hearings to protest what he has called procedural flaws during the process of putting together the committee and the ministry’s investigation into the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.

Yoon’s attorneys also questioned the fairness of the disciplinary committee proceedings, as their motions to disqualify two committee members ended in failure and it was forced to make a statement under “unreasonable” time constraint.

In the Wednesday announcement, the Blue House also announced that Justice Minister Choo asked to resign her post after completing her vows to launch the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials.

The new agency to be tasked with investigating corruption among senior government officials is expected to launch soon, following the recent parliamentary passage of a revision bill.

The launch of the CIO has been a major policy initiative of the Moon administration and a key part of his drive to reform the prosecution, which has frequently been accused of wielding too much power and authority.

“If without the determination and push from Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, reform of authoritative agencies including the prosecution would not have been possible,” Chung added.

“The president expressed his gratitude for her completing this job and thanked her for her determination in expressing her wish to resign.”

The Blue House did not say whether Moon has accepted Choo’s resignation.

By Ko Jun-tae (ko.juntae@heraldcorp.com)
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