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[Editorial] Emotional legislation

Democratic Party must stop venting anger over Yoon, focus on changing policies for people

Rep. Jung Chung-rae of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea said Monday that he will propose a bill to ban applications for court injunctions if they would mean victory in related lawsuits. He called it the “Yoon Seok-youl prevention bill.”

The court decided on Thursday to suspend the execution of the Justice Ministry’s two-month suspension of Prosecutor General Yoon. The court is set to start a trial on Yoon’s lawsuit for cancellation of the disciplinary action. When he filed the suit, he also applied for an injunction against the action.

According to the lawmaker, if a civil servant effectively wins a lawsuit by winning an injunction, the court should not allow an injunction. The injunction effectively guaranteed Yoon his term. He is due to retire in July of next year. His lawsuit may conclude after July.

The bill does not apply retroactively, but it is questionable whether it is fair to strip civil servants of the chance to request an injunction just because Yoon won an injunction and was effectively guaranteed his term.

It is a judge’s job to decide whether an injunction should be allowed. Laws must not be revised on the basis of emotion. The party must stop venting anger this way over Yoon’s reinstatement.

The party on Monday launched a task force of 18 lawmakers to reform the prosecution further. It seeks to remove investigation functions from the prosecution and leave it only the job of indicting.

Under revised relevant laws, effective from next year, the scope of the crimes that the prosecution can investigate directly will be limited to six areas -- corruption, the economy, public servants, elections, the defense industry and major accidents. In other fields, police will be able to investigate allegations directly and they will also be free to close cases on their own judgment.

This adjustment of power has serious problems. And now the party seeks to preclude the prosecution even from investigating cases in those six areas, and to downgrade it to an indictment agency.

If this becomes reality, there will be nothing for the prosecution to do but file accusations concerning President Moon Jae-in’s nuclear phaseout policy, the election of his old friend as Ulsan’s mayor and large-scale private equity fund frauds. Of course, the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, if launched, will take over those cases. The office will likely serve Moon as a fail-safe system to obstruct investigations into him and his aides.

If the right of police to close cases on their own authority is expanded, incidents like the recent one involving Vice Justice Minister Lee Yong-gu may happen frequently. Lee assaulted a taxi driver for waking him up after arriving at his destination, but police closed the case on their own judgment, though they should have booked Lee.

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae, who offered to resign after she recommended Yoon’s suspension, posted on her YouTube channel Monday calling for the impeachment of Yoon. Rep. Min Hyung-bae of the Democratic Party argued that Yoon’s impeachment would not generate any strong backlash. Rep. Kim Du-kwan appealed to other lawmakers to endorse an impeachment motion that he plans to prepare.

Choo pushed for disciplinary action against Yoon, but it has already lost legitimacy because of the injunction. And yet some Democratic Party lawmakers are mentioning impeachment despite Moon’s apology after the injunction.

The party is vowing to start “Season 2 of prosecution reform” and review various ideas on how to make the prosecution powerless.

Democratic Party lawmakers, together with lawmakers from its sister Open Democratic Party, proposed a bill on Dec. 11 to require incumbent prosecutors and judges to resign more than a year before running for election for public office. The bill, if passed, would make it impossible for Yoon to run for president in March 2022. This would infringe too much upon people’s right to run for office.

People have suffered economically from the prolonged coronavirus pandemic and policy failures in many fields, including housing prices and labor issues. It is urgent to change the course of state management. The party should stop wasting time taking its anger out over the failure to kick Yoon out, and should focus on a real change in policy.
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