Justice minister exercises authority in suspected collusion case

Jul 03, 2020, 09:28 am

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AsiaToday reporter Lee Wook-jae 

Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae exercised her authority Thursday over a high-profile investigation into alleged collusion between a senior prosecutor and cable TV news outlet, ordering Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to suspend the creation of an expert advisory panel. This was the second time in the country’s constitutional history that a justice minister has invoked investigative authority.

Under the Article 8 of the Prosecutors’ Office Act, the justice minister ordered the prosecution chief to suspend the convening of an expert advisory panel to review the suspected collusion case involving a prosecutor deemed close to the prosecutor general.

The minister also ordered the investigation team of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office to independently probe the case without being commanded or supervised by senior prosecutors, including the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, and then report only the results of the investigation to the prosecutor general. The minister virtually ordered the chief prosecutor to back off from the case and wait until independent investigators conclude their probe. 

“The case involves a prosecutor and a reporter who allegedly conspired to blackmail an inmate as well as its family members to get proof of illegal political lobbying about a particular person,” the minister said. “There is a need to resolve public suspicion through fair and thorough investigation.”

“In particular, this case involves a senior prosecutor known to be close to the prosecution chief. Therefore, decisions must be made in accordance with reasonable and transparent procedures to ensure that there is no question of fairness regarding the investigation by the prosecutor general,” Choo said. 

Under Article 8 of the Prosecutors’ Office Act, the minister of justice shall, as a chief superintendent to supervise prosecutor affairs, direct and supervise prosecutors in general, and with respect to specific cases, direct and supervise only the prosecutor general

In response to Choo’s decision, the Supreme Prosecutors Office has cancelled a planned meeting of an expert advisory panel aimed to determine the appropriateness of the ongoing prosecution investigation. 

Choo became the nation’s second justice minister to invoke investigative authority, after then-Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae took over command of an investigation into a professor in 2005 for his controversial comments on the nature of the Korean War.

#Justice minister #Choo Mi-ae #Yoon Seok-youl #prosecutor general #collusion 
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