[ED] Pro-Yoon’s Chief Prosecutor – The Korea Times

[ED] Pro-Yoon’s Chief Prosecutor – The Korea Times

OFPro-Yoon Chief Prosecutor

The prosecution should be reborn for the good of the people

President Yoon Suk-yeol has appointed Lee One-seok, Deputy Chief of the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office, as the new attorney general. Lee has served as acting attorney general since May 23, following the resignation of his predecessor, Kim Oh-soo. Lee is subject to National Assembly confirmation hearings in mid-September to become the new chief prosecutor.

We urge the Assembly to rigorously scrutinize Lee regarding his qualifications to carry out such an important mission. Efforts should focus on verifying its intention to respect the indispensable independence of the prosecution and neutrality vis-à-vis political influence. Unfortunately, however, skepticism has arisen due to Lee’s close relationship with President Yoon and Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon. Lee is seen as a pro-Yoon figure, which could threaten the prosecution’s neutrality.

In 2017, Lee worked on Yoon’s team investigating corruption charges against then-President Park Geun-hye at the Seoul District Attorney’s Office. Lee was also in the same class year as Han at the Judicial Research and Training Institute. Critics have multiplied around the nomination. The main opposition party, the Democratic Party of Korea (DPK), criticized Lee, describing him as a “puppet” or “figurehead” who will be influenced by those in power.

Moon Jae-in’s previous administration took various measures to reform the procuratorate, but failed to gain the full trust of the people. On the contrary, the Moon government has received criticism for seeking to separate the prosecution’s powers to investigate and indict, which some believed was to protect itself. Yoon had vowed to change these practices when he was running for president. Yet Yoon broke his promises, hiring his associate prosecutors for senior positions in his government.

According to the relevant law, prosecutors are supposed to be appointed following consultations between the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General, before obtaining the final approval of the President. This rule was intended to prevent the administration in place from arbitrarily exercising its authority in the appointment of prosecutors. But the Minister of Justice ignored this rule by pushing to appoint junior prosecutors even before the new attorney general was appointed. Yoon and Han cannot avoid criticism for delaying the appointment of the chief prosecutor, leaving the important position vacant for 104 days.

All inappropriate practices of trying to control the prosecution service in the name of its reform must not be repeated. And any attempt by the prosecution to come to terms with the administration in place cannot be justified. Many people fear that the prosecution service will once again be dominated by the ruling camp, as seen in past dictatorial regimes.

Lee should rigorously maintain the principles of law and equity without currying favor with the administration in place. After being named chief prosecutor, Lee said, “The neutrality of the prosecution is the foundation and the root of public trust. I will do everything possible to uphold that value.” Still, many people seem skeptical of Lee’s comment, given his status as a key pro-Yoon official. Lee must practice what he said to strengthen the independence and neutrality of the prosecution service for the benefit of the people, not those in power.

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