Flags flutter in the wind outside the prosecution service building on June 22. (Yonhap)
Prosecutors who worked closely with President Yoon Suk-yeol while he was the prosecutor general are returning to fill top jobs at anti-corruption departments of the prosecution service.
Many of the reshuffled prosecutors were those who were demoted during the Moon Jae-in administration for their role in special counsel investigations against the former president’s close aides.
The Ministry of Justice announced on Tuesday a large-scale shake-up of the prosecution service with some 683 new appointments to high-level posts.
Key positions at the anti-corruption departments in particular were handed to prosecutors who led some of the most high-profile special counsel investigations on the last administration.
Among them is Kang Baek-shin, who was the chief prosecutor of the team investigating allegations against Cho Kuk, who served as Moon’s justice minister in 2019.
Lee Hee-dong, another chief prosecutor, has been put in charge of investigations surrounding the case of Lee Dae-jun, a South Korean official who was fatally shot by North Korea after going missing from a fisheries boat in 2020. In 2019, Lee investigated Cheong Wa Dae’s suspected meddling in the election of Ulsan Mayor Song Cheol-ho, who is Moon’s long-time friend.
Two “pro-Moon” prosecutors, on the other hand, were transferred to less important positions, with at least one offering to resign.
Critics say the latest appointments may hurt the neutrality of the prosecution as an institution. Yoon has already faced criticism for appointing his ex-colleagues at the prosecution to his Cabinet and other senior roles in his administration.
Yoon denied that investigating what happened over the preceding administration constituted a “political vendetta,” as claimed by the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.
Speaking to reporters on June 17, he said that criminal investigations would “of course” target past events.
“It’s not right to leave stones unturned because they happened during a different administration,” he said, accusing his Democratic Party predecessor of having done the same.
On the president’s remarks a onetime prosecutor and attorney-at-law, who wished to stay anonymous, told The Korea Herald, “I think we should be very wary of turning our criminal justice system into a tool for ‘tit-for-tat’ politics.”
By Kim Arin (firstname.lastname@example.org