Cho Hee-dae, a nominee for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, expressed that he supports introducing the preliminary interrogation system for search and seizure warrants and the conditional arrest warrant system. These systems are meant to strengthen the judges’ right to review warrants and keep the prosecution in check for abusing search and confiscation and custody investigation. Cho also called for reconsidering the practice of putting the Ministry of Justice in charge of the personnel verification of a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
“I am well aware of issues with the prosecution’s search and confiscation,” said Cho during a confirmation hearing of the National Assembly held on Tuesday through Wednesday. He said he would positively examine the preliminary interrogation system for search and seizure and discuss it at the Supreme Court Justices' Council. Once introduced, the system will change the review process of search and seizure warrants, which is currently done only in writing, so that judges will inquire about those involved in cases and decide whether to issue warrants or not.
The prosecution’s indiscriminate search and seizure of suspects’ mobile phones or PCs is based on investigation expediency. There are side effects of exposing the private matters of individuals unrelated to crimes and trade secrets of companies to investigative agencies. There are also quite a few cases that lead to special investigations. These are the reasons why courts should rigorously examine the need and scope of search and seizure. However, the issuance rate of search and seizure warrants was 91.1 percent last year, and the number of such warrants quadrupled compared to 2011. This is clear evidence that the prosecution is out of control and the court cannot keep it in line.
Regarding the conditional arrest system, which releases those subject to arrest with a condition of residence restriction and only arrests them if the condition is violated, Cho said he would immediately begin improving the system once he takes office. The system intends to reduce arrests while preventing the destruction of evidence and flight risk from warrant dismissal. Cho mentioned this system based on the judgment that the capabilities and attention of investigative agencies are excessively focused on arrest, which causes side effects. He pointed out that the broad criminal justice principle of investigating without detention is being ignored, and arrest is prioritized over trials.
He also suggested that at least a Supreme Court justice and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should be verified by an agency other than the Ministry of Justice. The current system of the Personnel Information Management Bureau under the Ministry of Justice, a government ministry, verifying candidates for the judiciary's leadership does not comply with the principle of separation of powers. There has been constant criticism on this matter, but the Ministry of Justice has been continuing the existing practice of verifying a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court based on the argument that a government ministry has been doing this, which is an unacceptable excuse. Immediate improvement plans should be made based on Cho’s suggestions.