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Yoon returns to work as court upholds his suit

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl will return to his work immediately as a Seoul court approved his suit to overturn his two-month suspension.

As the top prosecutor won the legal battle, political blows are inevitable for Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, who lost to Yoon twice, and President Moon Jae-in, who endorsed Yoon’s suspension.

The second interrogation, which was held two days after the first held on Tuesday, began at 3 p.m. and ended one hour and 20 minutes later. 

At around 10 p.m., judges made a partial decision to accept Yoon’s requests.  

Accordingly, Yoon will return to his post and continue to file a lawsuit to overturn the suspension. 

He had filed an injunction at the court on Thursday last week seeking both to apply for a suspension of the execution and to overturn the two-month disciplinary suspension of duties.

Since the Ministry of Justice is expected to appeal, the final conclusion of the suspension of execution on the disciplinary measure is highly likely to be decided by the Supreme Court, which will take more than seven months. Therefore, Yoon is expected to remain in office for the rest of his term, which falls until July next year. 

Yoon said he is “grateful to the judiciary,” and added he would do his best to “defend the spirit of the constitution.”

Judges looked at the fairness of disciplinary procedures and justification of the grounds for Yoon’s suspension.

This hearing comes as Yoon filed an injunction at the court on Thursday last week seeking to apply for a suspension of the execution and overturn the two-month disciplinary suspension of duties. The disciplinary measure was decided by the Justice Ministry and endorsed by President Moon Jae-in. Yoon’s alleged misconduct include 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.

At the end of the first hearing, the court asked the two sides to submit their opinions on several issues before the second hearing. The issues include whether damage to Yoon is unrecoverable; whether the hearing result has a significant impact on public welfare; whether the composition of the disciplinary committee is legitimate; and what is the purpose of the analysis of the judges’ propensity -- which Yoon asked of his subordinates in major cases.

The irreparable damage and significant impact on public welfare mentioned by the court are the requirements to be considered when deciding to suspend the execution of administrative dispositions.

Yoon claimed that if he is absent for two months, it will seriously damage the prosecution’s investigation of major cases and cause “unrecoverable damage” that violates the prosecution‘s political independence, neutrality and rule of law.

The Ministry of Justice argued that if the disciplinary action imposed by the president is neutralized, the stability of the administrative organization will be shaken and the national opinion will be divided, which will have a “significant effect on the public welfare.

The two sides clashed over the purpose of analysis on judges’ propensity.

In February, Yoon asked his subordinates to prepare a report that analyzed the propensity of judges in major cases such as the president’s alleged intervention in the election of Ulsan‘s mayor in 2018 and reported it to him. The Justice Minister sees it as an illegal inspection of judges while Yoon says it was a one-time work reference and was intended for “smooth execution of trials.”

The court also looked at whether Yoon tried to interfere with the inspection of the attempted coercion by a former reporter of a cable news channel Channel A.

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