Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl on Thursday filed a request to the Seoul Administrative Court to stop the execution of a two-month suspension, which earned final confirmation of President Moon Jae-in; and a lawsuit to overturn the issuance in question. As the top prosecutor has defied the current administration’s disciplinary measures, the key now is in the hands of the court to decide on the legitimacy of the issuance of a two-month suspension.
Given that Yoon became the first prosecutor general in the nation’s history to be given a suspension order while on duty, the ramifications of the matter go beyond damage to Yoon’s dignity and honor. The Moon administration has come under fire for wielding political power to shake the foundations of the national criminal judiciary system. Former prosecutors general has issued a statement with incumbent prosecutors’ voice against the decision echoing throughout the nation.
Yoon’s request for suspension of execution awaits the court’s decision to see if a two-month suspension has incurred unrecoverable damage to Yoon, followed by a subsequent ruling on the legitimacy of the suspension measure. When Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae issued a suspension order on Yoon on Nov. 24, the Seoul Administrative Court accepted Yoon’s request for suspension of execution, leading him to come back to his office. “Not being able to fulfill the responsibilities as prosecutor general incurs damage to which any monetary compensation does not apply,” the court said last month. “Even if Yoon wins the following lawsuit, he will suffer irreparable damage.”
There is a marked difference between Minister Choo's order to suspend Yoon from duty, which was only a temporary measure when she sought disciplinary action against him; and the officially finalized decision on his suspension. However, both of the two measures, in nature, give us the same message, considering the special and significant nature of the position as prosecutor general with a fixed term enshrined by law. It may be hard to see the first trial's ruling before next July when Yoon leaves office, given how long it takes to handle an administrative lawsuit. Even if Yoon wins the legal battle, it will be impossible for him to return to his position because his tenure will have already ended around then. The result is, Yoon is likely to be left with irreversible damage.
With the ruling party monopolizing the legislative body, balance and check does fail to work as a supporting vehicle for democracy. Thus, the judiciary body should, as the last resort, restore rule of law that has already suffered destruction. That is why the court should expedite a ruling on Yoon's lawsuit. If his voice is silenced even in the courtroom, we will only have to regress from decades of progress in the nation's democracy built on various systems and institutions since democratization.