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Court hearing held on Yoon’s 2-month suspension

Hearing ends early due to sharp confrontation, another expected Thursday

Prosecution Service (Yonhap)
Prosecution Service (Yonhap)
The process of reviewing the legalities of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl’s suspension began Tuesday, with a Seoul court holding a hearing on Yoon’s suit to lift the suspension.

The court’s decision could turn the tables yet again on Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae.

The Seoul Administrative Court held a hearing at 2 p.m. to interrogate the suspension of the order filed by Yoon against Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae. Yoon did not attend.

Deliberation ended at 4:16 p.m. The court decided to continue the hearing at 3 p.m. on Thursday without closing it on the day, as the sides were sharply divided.

The hearing comes as Yoon filed an injunction at the court on Thursday seeking to apply for a suspension of the execution and overturn the two-month disciplinary suspension of duties, which President Moon Jae-in had endorsed a day earlier. Moon endorsed the Justice Ministry‘s decision to suspend the top prosecutor for two months over alleged misconduct, including the surveillance of judges hearing cases on former Justice Minister Cho Kuk and interference with the inspection and investigation of a former Channel A journalist.

As the measure immediately went into effect, Yoon’s duties have already been suspended.

If the court upholds Yoon’s request, he will return to office immediately. If it is dismissed, he will return to the post on Feb. 16, two months later.

At the hearing, Yoon reportedly argued that the discipline will cause irreparable damage to the top prosecutor and undermine the independence and neutrality of the prosecution.

Yoon says that he will not be able to perform his duties as prosecutor general during the suspension period, which could cause major disruptions to the investigation of important cases such as the controversial closure of the Wolsong-1 nuclear reactor.

Yoon’s attorney Lee Seok-woong said Monday, “Every minute and second that he was unable to perform his duties as prosecutor general is damage that is impossible to compensate with money.”

The Ministry of Justice argued that if Yoon maintains his duties, it will threaten the fairness of the prosecution and show that the judiciary infringes on the administration‘s right to discipline.

Given that the disciplinary procedure against Yoon was implemented after the president’s approval, the Ministry of Justice said that if the suspension of execution is accepted, the president’s right to discipline will be virtually neutralized.

Meanwhile, on the same day, the first trial of the 74-year-old mother-in-law of Yoon, who is suspected of violating the medical law and of fraud, is also to be held at the Uijeongbu District Court at 4 p.m., nine months after the indictment.

By Shin Ji-hye (shinjh@heraldcorp.com)
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