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Chief prosecutor nominee stresses ‘organizational stability’

Kim Oh-soo (Yonhap)
Kim Oh-soo (Yonhap)
New Prosecutor General nominee Kim Oh-soo stressed the organizational stability of the prosecution as his top priority on Tuesday as he prepares for a parliamentary confirmation hearing to succeed Yoon Seok-youl, who rose to political stardom by defying his bosses.

“If I am appointed as prosecutor general, I think stabilizing the organization is the most important thing,” Kim told reporters as he arrived for work Tuesday morning.

“I will communicate and make efforts to harmonize with members of the prosecution so that the prosecution is trusted, focused on the people’s livelihood and fair.”

Kim, who is likely to be the last prosecutor general of the Moon Jae-in administration if he is appointed after the hearing, said he feels a heavy sense of responsibility at this difficult time.

Moon named the former vice justice minister as the new chief prosecutor on Monday to fill a position that has been vacant for two months, since Yoon resigned.

Yoon left after a yearlong battle against former Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae over investigative rights. He has blasted the ruling party’s moves to create a separate agency to investigate six types of crimes such as abuse of power and corruption, calling it an attempt to “disband the prosecution” and “annihilate the rule of law.”

With just 10 months left till the next presidential election in March next year, Yoon has topped public polls on preferred candidates for the past few months.

If appointed, Kim, a former prosecutor, is to take the helm of a politically divided prosecution that has been under reform since the Moon administration took off in May 2017.

Hailing from Yeonggwang, South Jeolla Province, Kim, 58, served as vice justice minister to the past three justice ministers: Park Sang-ki, Cho Kuk and Choo.

“Kim has taken the lead in protecting human rights and prosecutorial reforms,” Park Kyung-mi, spokesperson for the presidential office, said in a press briefing Tuesday.

Kim had been mentioned as a possible candidate for chief of the Fair Trade Commission, the Financial Supervisory Service or the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission. He was also recommended twice for an auditor post at the Board of Audit and Inspection last year, but didn’t make the final cut as the BAI chief emphasized “political neutrality.”

Kim is among those under investigation by the Suwon District Prosecutors’ Office over suspicions that he was involved in illegally banning an ex-vice justice minister from leaving the country in 2019.

Kim Hak-eui, who stepped down as vice justice minister in 2013 during the Park Geun-hye administration due to allegations that he received bribes from businessmen and sexual favors brokered by them, was acquitted of bribery charges in 2013 and 2015.

The main opposition People Power Party criticized the nomination of Kim Oh-soo, saying it explains why the justice minister emphasized “the president’s philosophy for state affairs” in the next chief prosecutor rather than neutrality or independence.

“Legal circles see it as nominating a prosecutor general who is loyal to persons and merely reads the lips of those in power,” party spokesperson Bae Joon-young said.

By Kim So-hyun (sophie@heraldcorp.com)
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