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Top prosecutor resigns in defiance of weakening prosecution’s power

President Moon accepts resignation immediately; Yoon remains silent about entering politics after resignation  


Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl expresses his intention to resign in front of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl expresses his intention to resign in front of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul on Thursday. (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl announced his resignation Thursday in protest against the government’s push to weaken the power of the prosecution. An hour later, President Moon Jae-in accepted the resignation.

At 2 p.m. in front of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul, Yoon said in front of reporters, “I am going to resign as the prosecutor general today. It is difficult to watch common sense and justice collapse any more. (My role) in the prosecution ends here.”

He added, “The constitutional spirit and rule of law that has supported this country is being destroyed, and the damage will only go to the public.

“I will continue to do my best to protect liberal democracy and protect the people as I have done so far.”

Yoon went straight into the building without answering questions from reporters as to whether he now plans to enter politics.

An hour later, Chung Man-ho, senior presidential secretary for public communication, said in a briefing that President Moon had accepted the resignation. As a result, Cheong Wa Dae is expected to start searching for a successor to Yoon.

Yoon will leave the prosecution a year and eight months after his appointment in July 2019. The two-year term was about four months from its completion.

Yoon’s move is seen as intended to put a brake on the government’s speeding up the process of weakening the power of the prosecution. Over the past two days, he strongly criticized the legislation for a new investigative agency the ruling party has been moving to create.

The Moon administration and the ruling party have been accelerating the creation of a new investigative agency dedicated to investigating serious crimes, which is currently the purview of the prosecution. In January, an agency to investigate corruption of high-ranking officials was also established.

A day earlier, Yoon told reporters that creating the new agency is tantamount to a major violation of the constitutional spirit and is a violation of the constitutional responsibilities of the state and government.

He added it would completely deprive the prosecution of its investigative rights and let corruption run rampant.

His public criticism of the setting up of the new investigative agency has been denounced by the ruling bloc, including the former justice minister and prime minister.

Former Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae said via her Facebook account Thursday, “(Yoon) should abandon the arrogance that ‘I am the only one who is just.’”

“Without a doubt, the separation of investigation and prosecution does not cause problems in investigation capabilities. The specialty of the investigation and the prevention of abuse of investigative rights are separate matters,” she said.

She added that we must admit that the real problem of the prosecution’s investigation in Korea is not the capability of the investigation, but the “selective investigation (and) selective neglect.”

Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun said a day earlier that it is inappropriate for Yoon to strongly oppose the establishment of the new investigative agency. Chung added that Yoon had been acting “like a politician, not a public official.”

Yoon’s resignation is seen as an extension of his moves in political circles. In a recent poll of support of potential presidential candidates, Yoon and ruling Democratic Party of Korea Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon tied for second at 15.5 percent. Gyeonggi Province Gov. Lee Jae-myung stayed at the top with 23.6 percent.

When asked about intentions to enter politics Wednesday, Yoon avoided giving a definite answer, replying, “I’m not saying this here.”

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