Kim Jin-wook, the inaugural chief of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials, speaks during a forum hosted by the Kwanhun Club, an association of senior journalists, in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Kim Jin-wook, the head of the new powerful investigative agency, on Thursday vowed to remain politically neutral and not to give in to political pressure when it comes to investigations.
In his first public debate since taking office last month, Kim, the inaugural chief of the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO), said he will try his best to listen to different opinions on contentious and divisive issues.
"I will be impartial towards everyone with different opinions and listen to them on open occasions in order to keep neutrality," he said during a forum hosted by the Kwanhun Club, an association of senior journalists.
While he said he was cognizant of the deeply divisive nature of the country's politics, as shown in the impeachments of two former presidents -- conservative Park Geun-hye and progressive Ron Moo-hyun -- he will act according to "law and principle" while actively communicating with people of all parties.
Throughout the forum, he emphasized the importance of maintaining neutrality and tried to dispel concerns about political influence.
"There is no such thing as a hotline with the president and there won't be one in the future," he said, adding that he and the agency will "avoid taking on cases that might trigger questions about our impartiality."
"There were many cases where the political neutrality of an investigation was thrown into doubt because of its timing," he said, stressing that the CIO will avoid provoking unnecessary controversies by refraining from holding sensitive investigations ahead of elections.
The 54-year-old former judge also expected the agency to handle about 3-4 major cases a year, on top of a number of smaller cases as well.
The agency, comprised of a team of 25 prosecutors and 40 investigators, is authorized to investigate corruption cases involving former and current public officials, including the president, lawmakers and prosecutors, as well as their families.
It also has the power to indict when it comes to crimes involving the chief justice, prosecutor general, judges, prosecutors, high-ranking police and military officials.
The establishment of the agency is considered one of the most important reforms in the country's law and enforcement, as it can serve as a much-needed check and balance against the powerful prosecution service. (Yonhap)