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Roh Rejects Prosecutor Demands

Posted March. 09, 2003 22:40,   


President Roh Moo-hyun flatly denied the prosecution`s demands yesterday. Prosecutors have demanded that revamping of the system should come before initiating reform on promotions.

In a meeting entitled ‘Meeting with Prosecutors’, which took place at a conference room in the Central Government Complex in Seoul, President Roh appealed, "It would take three to four months to revamp the personnel management board and then make promotions. I will reshuffle the body as originally intended. Please believe in my administration and act in this belief."

South Koreans are wondering whether prosecutors would accept Roh`s proposal.

During the debate, the President and prosecutors touched on various issues including political independence of the investigative body and composition of the personnel management board. The two sides, however, failed to narrow their differences.

President Roh and 10 prosecutors representing the whole body participated in the meeting, which started at 2 p.m. Also on hand were 30 other officials including Justice Minister Kang Kum-sil and Chief of Staff Moon Jae-in. President Roh brushed off prosecutors` demands for "reform of the system prior to making promotions," and said, "Our Constitution authorizes the President and Justice Minister to make decisions about appointment and promotion of prosecutors. We have collected information for making such decisions, and the decisions will be made based on this information."

The prosecution’s representatives demanded that promotional decisions should be made through the personnel management board, and criticized current practices. Until now, decisions were made by a handful of people including the minister and some senior officials.

President Roh, however, would not budge and announced, "Currently, the personnel management board of the prosecution includes as its members the prosecutors themselves. They are the ones to be reformed. Thus, we have to recompose the board. But it will take some time. Therefore, we will go on as planned." He also envisioned the future structure of the board. According to President`s plan, it will have three subdivisions for attorney general, division chiefs, and "ordinary" prosecutors.

In addition, President posed the question, "Why are you demanding that I not exercise my constitutional authority? All the other presidents have done the same. Why only me? Do you believe things will get better with the incumbent Attorney General sitting in his office for a couple of months more?" This indicates how much mistrust he has in high-ranking prosecutors.

The representatives requested during the meeting that the Attorney General, not the Justice Minister, should make promotional recommendations; a board of legal experts and prosecutors should be set up to screen candidates for Attorney General; the minister should no longer be allowed to conduct investigations; and prosecutors should be protected in terms of job stability.

Especially, they strongly demanded that only the Attorney General be allowed to make promotional recommendations. They argued that with the authority belonging to the minister, prosecutors would not be able to investigate political scandals for fear of disadvantages for promotion.

But President Roh would not give in to the demands and said, "To rein in the powerful organization, the minister retains the authority to make decisions on promotion. So far, the Justice Ministry has been dominated by prosecutors. That is why the prosecution has failed to be reined in."

Meanwhile, senior prosecutors watched the discussion on TV in their offices at the Supreme Public Prosecutors` Office. When it was over, they met with Attorney General Kim Kak-young and discussed their future.

In an emergency meeting with the Attorney General, senior prosecutors reportedly tried to come up with countermeasures to President Roh`s mistrust and promised to push ahead with the original promotional plan.

Jong-Dae Ha Myoung-Gun Lee orionha@donga.com gun43@donga.com