New Prosecutor General Lee Won-seok took office on Friday. Following the National Assembly confirmation hearing held on Oct. 5, although its report was not adopted due to objection from the opposition party, President Yoon Suk-yeol awarded the appointment letter to Lee. It has been 133 days since May 6 when former Prosecutor General Kim Oh-soo resigned.
During the absence of the prosecutor general, the appointment of the positions at the Prosecutors’ Office was completed under the leadership of Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon. From the investigation command line of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office to the working-level staff at the front line at the Prosecutors’ Office, those affiliated with the so-called 'Yoon Suk-yeol Division' have filled the positions. Although Prosecutor General Lee served as the deputy chief of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office and acting prosecutor general, it is questionable whether he had sufficiently voiced his opinions on personnel matters. For Lee to dispel concerns about becoming a “brain-dead prosecutor general,” he needs to ensure that his voice is heard, starting from the appointment of currently vacant senior prosecutor positions, such as the deputy chief of the Prosecutors’ office, and improve his control of the organization.
More at stake is that he continues to uphold the neutrality and impartiality of the prosecution. The Democratic Party's refusal to adopt the hearing report was cited because of his close ties to President Yoon, rendering his political neutrality questionable. Prosecutor General Lee denied personal ties to President Yoon, saying, "I have never called him a big brother in private." However, it is true that when President Yoon was the Prosecutor General, Lee was the head of the Planning and Coordination Department of the Supreme Prosecutors' Office. When President Yoon was the head of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office, Lee worked side by side with him as the Special Division One Chief Prosecutor.
Moreover, as the prosecution's investigation into Democratic Party leader Lee Jae-myung has recently accelerated, the controversy over "oppression on the opposition party" is rising, so Prosecutor General Lee should feel heavy on his shoulders. Prosecutors indicted Lee for violating the Public Official Election Act. The investigation into allegations regarding donations from Seongnam FC, and payment of attorney’s fees on his behalf is in full swing. His wife, Kim Hye-kyung, was also investigated by the prosecution for allegations of misappropriation of her corporate card. Investigations into incidents under the Moon Jae-in administration, including the allegation of forcible repatriation of North Korean defectors, are also underway.
On the other hand, the prosecution's investigation into First Lady Kim Keon Hee is moving slowly. Although the main culprits were prosecuted at the end of last year in connection with the Deutsche Motors' stock manipulation case, Mrs. Kim, who is allegedly involved, has not even been brought in for questioning. In most opinion polls, more than half of the responses favor the special prosecutor's bill to handle cases related to the first lady submitted by the opposition party. As such, public confidence in the prosecution's investigation is not high. “There can be no exceptions, no perks, and no sanctuary in law enforcement,” Prosecutor General Lee said in his inaugural address. He is responsible for easing concerns about neutrality and fairness by putting his belief into practice.