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The Justice Minister’s Contradictory Stance

Posted October. 18, 2005 06:51,   


Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae, who created a stir by ordering prosecutors not to detain Professor Kang Jeong-gu while questioning him, introduced a legislation patent to the National Assembly in 2001 that asked for the deletion of a law provision which allows the Justice Minister to command the prosecution regarding specific cases.

Materials related to a legislation petition kept in the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly showed that Chun, who was a member of the National Assembly in October 2001, independently introduced the petition requesting a revision of prosecutor’s office law submitted by the civic group People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy, which includes the above, to the committee and said he actively supports the tenor of the petition to achieve the political neutrality of the prosecution.

The People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy’s revision annulled a clause which obligates subordinates to follow orders from seniors and deleted a clause in Article 8, which stipulates that the justice minister direct and command only the prosecutor general when it comes to specific cases. Instead, the revision kept in place a clause that says that the justice minister generally directs and commands prosecutors as a chief supervisor of prosecution affairs.

In a written opinion on the petition, Chun stated, “I welcome the petition submitted by the People`s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy as it is very timely and necessary, actively support the tenor of the petition, and thereby introduce it here.” He emphasized that the prosecution’s political neutrality is the ultimate object of constitutionalism, and that a system should be established for the prosecution to endure pressure from the political circle and go its own way.

When he ordered prosecutors to investigate Professor Kang this time, Minister Chun said that the Constitution guarantees the people’s physical freedom as a basic right, and that the Criminal Procedure Code stipulates that the detention of suspects and defendants is allowed only when there is a possibility they would destroy evidence and run away, and that there is no reason for this principle to be applied differently to cases related to public peace.

Regarding this, Rep. Chang Yoon-Seok, a chief law adviser for the Grand National Party, pointed out that it is a self-contradiction because the person who introduced the legislation petition so that Justice Minister wouldn’t command the prosecutor general, ordered prosecutors and tried to do a favor for a certain person.

When asked, Chun refused to make specific references, saying that he will make his position clear at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee next day.

Jung-Eun Lee lightee@donga.com