Posted April. 08, 2017 08:19,
Updated April. 08, 2017 08:22
“The prosecution was founded as a human rights institute with quasi-judicial power in order to control excessive use of investigation right given to the police in the past,” said Korea’s Prosecutor General Kim Soo-nam during a ceremony to celebrate the completion of a new building for Seoul Eastern District Prosecutors' Office. In other words, he has made himself crystal clear about his opposition against the separation of investigation right entitled to the prosecution amid growing number of suggestions and arguments from the police and political circles about giving the police rights to investigate and to request arrest and search warrants. He mentioned advanced countries and international courts including the International Criminal Court to support his position of giving investigation and indictment rights solely to prosecutors. “Among OECD member countries, Austria and Switzerland have recently decided to let prosecutors direct and supervise the police.”
It is quite unprecedented happening to see the prosecutor general who represents about 2,000 prosecutors in Korea talks about the prosecution’s investigation right in front of the public. It seems that Kim has made a decision to come forward because presidential candidates, including Moon Jae-in of the Minjoo Party, Ahn Cheol-soo of the People's Party and even prosecutor-turned-politician Hong Joon-pyo of the Liberty Korea Party, are pledging to reform the prosecution. On the same day, the police held a big debate at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency with officers to discuss police investigation reform in preparation for separation of investigation and indictment rights, making Kim all the more anxious. Even so, Kim’s hasty remarks with a blatant intention to protect its agency only seem a premature judgement as a leader of the prosecution.
During the International Association of Prosecutors (IAP) Asia & Pacific Regional Conference, recently held in Busan, IAP President Gerhard Jarosch highly evaluated Korea’s prosecution, saying, “Custody investigation into former President Park by the prosecution is a testament to lively democracy and rule of law in Korea. It proves the prosecution’s transparency and independence.” However, the Korean prosecutor general could not fully enjoy the moment. The prosecution could have identified Choi Soon-sil if it had played its role fully back in 2014 when the Chung Yoon-hoi document scandal was broke out. Though multiple allegations were raised over the Mir Foundation and K-Sports Foundation, the prosecution assigned the case to a team dealing with general complaints. The prosecution belatedly searched Choi’s empty office after Ms. Park had made an apology to the public in October. Faced with a string of corruption scandals from senior prosecutors, the prosecution has been busy considering what the authority would think of. This reality is what the prosecution has to regret.
What matters the most to the public is the quality of judicial service whether it be controlled by the prosecution or the police. The prosecution says that it is too early to grant an independent investigation right to the police although the police has improved. However, the public would not easily buy the prosecution’s words due to too much disappointment in it after it has been revealed that the prosecution was almost in control by Woo Byung-woo, former senior presidential secretary for civil affairs. The public seems not friendly to the prosecution anymore after stories have been told about its connection with political circles. It could be a big victory to the police if the prosecution fails to reform its organization from bottom to top out of painful self-examination and only tries to defend itself.