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Reform committee for civil servants’ crimes lacks tools to check power

Reform committee for civil servants’ crimes lacks tools to check power

Posted September. 19, 2017 07:36,   

Updated September. 19, 2017 08:37


The judicial and prosecutorial reform committee under the Justice Ministry suggested on Monday Justice Minister Park Sang-ki to establish a large-scale investigation office for civil servants’ crimes with 122 investigators including 50 prosecutors. Reform committee chairman Han In-seop commented on the size of the staff by saying “Not too big,” comparing to the 20-prosecutor plan Reps. Park Beom-gye and Lee Yong-joo proposed, which is the largest number of prosecutors among pending bills at the National Assembly. The public prosecution office has been shocked as it projected an investigation team of no more than 20 prosecutors. Justice Minister Park, who is not hailing from the prosecution, plans to seek enactment of the bill by reflecting the reform committee’s proposal as much as possible.

While being debriefed by the Justice Ministry, President Moon Jae-in asked the ministry to separate investigation rights between the prosecution and the police, and to establish an investigation office for civil servants’ crimes as top priority tasks. Since all candidates in the latest presidential election except the Liberty Korea Party candidate vowed to establish investigation office for civil servants’ crimes, the investigation office is expected to be introduced. However, the size and authority of the office should yet to be discussed. Under the reform committee’s plan, the investigation office should be referred on the case involving a ranking government official. Also, there is no restriction to the principle of indictment by court, in which a suspect is indicted unconditionally if charges are recognized. Given that the investigation office could avoid making indictment at its own discretion even after its investigation, it could spawn conflict with the prosecution. Therefore, the National Assembly needs to thoroughly review the plan to prevent the investigation office from abusing and misusing its authority.

The investigation office will be in charge of proving civil servants ranging from president, prime minister, ministers, lawmakers, judges, prosecutors to military generals, which covers almost all societal leaders except entrepreneurs. The prosecution fears that the proposed investigation office could be an organization above prosecutors’ office. The investigation office for civil servants’ crimes was first proposed, as the prosecution failed to conduct probe independently during the previous administrations. Often, the prosecution sparked controversy and caused anger by behaving like uncontrolled power elite by wielding the exclusive right to indict suspects. The incumbent prosecution has also failed to implement self-reform as its personnel appointments have been controlled by the presidential office. The introduction of the investigation office for civil servants’ crime is an outcome of prosecutors’ own fault.

The plan should be implemented in a care-taken matter, as the introduction of the investigation office is no different from creating a new prosecutorial body alongside the conventional prosecutorial organization, which there’s no case in foreign countries. The reform committee asks the president to appoint the head of the investigate office from two nominees suggested by the seven-member recommendation committee including those are recommended by Justice Minister, the head of the National Court Administration, the chair of the Korea Bar Association and the National Assembly. But the important thing is that prosecutorial authority belongs to the president or the prime minister, rather than the National Assembly, which can be seen in countries across the world.