President Moon Jae-in speaks during a policy briefing from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety at Cheong Wa Dae in Seoul on Monday. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in called on the state prosecution service Monday to earn public trust, saying the separation of its rights to investigate crimes and indict suspects is necessary to reform the prosecution.
The prosecution should be able to assure the public that the exercise of its rights is fair, not arbitrary or selective, he stressed.
There has been no improvement, however, in public confidence in the prosecution's impartiality despite efforts by most prosecutors, he added.
The president was speaking at the outset of a Cheong Wa Dae session to receive briefings from the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety on pending policy issues.
His remarks, delivered in front of pool reporters and cameras, represented his first official message on the controversial prosecution reform drive since Yoon Seok-youl resigned in protest from the job of prosecutor general last week.
The liberal administration of Moon, formerly a human rights lawyer, has focused on giving the police more investigative power, mostly in ordinary criminal cases. The National Investigation Headquarters was born under the wing of the police for that purpose.
The government has also established the Corruption Investigation Office For High-ranking Officials (CIO) empowered with investigation and indictment.
The prosecution service still has the authority to probe six major crimes, including those related to economy, election and arms procurement.
Moon pointed out that 2021 is the year for the reform steps to take effect in earnest and urged the prosecution, the police and the CIO to establish an efficient cooperative system.
"But it's not complete yet," he added. "The separation of prosecution rights and investigation rights is a direction (for us) to go constantly in the future as well for the sake of checks and balances and protection of human rights."
In particular, the police should prove their investigative capabilities, Moon said.
Some hard-line lawmakers of the ruling Democratic Party have been pushing for the creation of another non-prosecution body specializing in looking into serious crimes, a move to strip the prosecution of its investigative rights.
The former top prosecutor claimed that it would wreak havoc on the nation's law enforcement against corruption. (Yonhap)