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Close Associate of President Becomes Minister of Justice

Close Associate of President Becomes Minister of Justice

Posted June. 30, 2005 06:27,   


The new Minister of Justice Chun Jung-bae came to office on June 29. Interest in the prosecution led by Chun is very keen. Chun, who is closer than anyone to President Roh Moo-hyun, was chosen to carry out prosecution reforms in the way envisioned by President Roh. Minister Chun’s willingness to reform is also staunch.

In his inaugural speech, Minister Chun emphasized such willingness repeatedly.

He said that he would ensure basic human rights and appropriate legal procedures in all aspects of prosecution authority and administration in the ministry of justice. He also added that he would assure self-inspection in the ministry of justice.

In particular, he made clear that his purpose was the reform of the prosecution through the participation of the public by saying that he planned to expand public participation in all fields so positive checking by the people would be possible.

Transformation of Prosecution is Inevitable—

When rumors were running around that former Minister of Justice Kang Kum-sil would be sacked in early July of 2004, Minister Chun told reporters, “She was entrusted for a year to conduct reforms but what results have we had so far? It has only been boisterous.”

Out of the future actions of Minister Chun, creating a “High Government Official Corruption Investigation Office” and coordinating the investigation authority between prosecution and police are drawing the most interest.

During the National Assembly’s inspection of the Ministry of Justice in 2003, Chun presented his “10 Tasks for the Prosecution” which included the creation of the government official investigation office. When Chun was the floor leader of the Uri Party, he made a strong statement on June 18, 2004 that the government official investigation office should have both the authority to investigate and indict, like the prosecution.

At a June 28 press conference after the announcement of the cabinet reshuffling, he said, “The National Assembly should play a leading role in the coordination investigation authority between the prosecution and the police.” Overall, this means reducing the authority of the prosecution, and that is not wanted by the prosecution.

Minister Chun’s Views on the Prosecution Seen through His Autobiography—

Minister Chun’s views on the prosecution are well presented in his autobiography titled, “Human Rights Lawyer with a Ponytail,” published in March 1996 before he entered politics.

He wrote that he renounced being a judge or prosecutor, “Even though I finished third in the Judicial Research and Training Institute, I could not receive a letter of appointment given by the military dictatorship of Jeon Doo-hwan.”

When working as human rights lawyer and defending workers, a university friend who had become a public security prosecutor advised him, “Why do you hang out with such rebellious forces? You should take care of your future too.” In response, Minister Chun answered, “Because I feel sympathy. You should be proud to have succeeded.”

In his book, he also pointed out that the prosecution should reflect upon its past history. In 1994, Minister Chun was a lawyer for the people who were punished for being part of the “Kim Dae-jung civil war conspiracy,” who in turn filed a suit against the people responsible for the May 18 Gwangju crackdown. The Seoul District Prosecutors Office’s First Public Security Division dropped the case against all 58 defendants including former presidents Jeon Doo-hwan and Roh Tae-woo.

Minister Chun sarcastically remarked, “The prosecution was faithful to its role of sidekick to the president who wanted to let history do the judging. The prosecution voluntarily acknowledged that it has neither the qualifications nor the willingness to make a judiciary judgment of a historical case. The prosecution could have recovered its sanity if it had indicted them before President Kim Young-sam enacted the May 18 Special Law.”

His book also contains a passage in the evidential value of questioning papers composed by the prosecution, which is at the core of the controversial revision of the criminal procedure code pursued by the Presidential Committee on Judicial Reform.

He defended a public official who was prosecuted for receiving bribes. Minister Chun denied his defendant’s testimony at the prosecution arguing that it was obtained under torture. The case ended in the Supreme Court with a not guilty ruling.

The Response of the Prosecution—

A head prosecutor said, “I don’t know what he thought outside, but once he became the minister of justice, I think he will understand the prosecution.” However, a chief of division-level prosecution official said, “I worry about the future of the prosecution since his bias toward the prosecution is so intense.”

Overall, inside the prosecution, although they do not say so out loud, the dominating atmosphere is one of concern rather than expectation.