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(EDITORIAL from Korea JoongAng Daily on Nov. 30)

Stop Choo’s rampage

The confusion from Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae’s abrupt suspension of Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl from active duty for very suspicious reasons is headed to a watershed moment this week. After the top prosecutor filed a complaint with the Seoul Administrative Court last week to request a suspension of the execution of the minister’s order, a judge starts deliberation of the case today. The judge may reach a conclusion in a day or two given the gravity of the case.

Legal circles are mostly convinced that the justice minister’s action not only violated the law, but also ignored procedure. A slew of statements by junior prosecutors from 59 district prosecution offices out of 60 across the country calling for withdrawal of her decision prove it. Such a revolt by prosecutors took place in the past, but this is the first time that they have reacted to a justice minister’s incomprehensible decision in such a collective way. Even heads of former and current district prosecution offices have joined a crusade to oppose the justice minister’s decision.

In reaction, Rep. Kim Tae-nyeon, floor leader of the ruling Democratic Party (DP), wondered if “any other civil servants can engage in such a fearless group action.” But he must recognize that the justice minister’s suspension order without proper grounds is being criticized by an overwhelming majority of prosecutors.

Members of an internal inspection committee in the Justice Ministry demanded a meeting be held before Dec. 1 to see if Yoon really committed serious violations of the Prosecution Act. But Choo amended the ministry’s internal decrees on her own to avoid their obvious opposition to her decision. A justice minister can revise internal decrees after he or she makes it public for 20 days to build a consensus. But she skipped that process and disallowed the prosecutor from doing his job.

The minister and the DP are attacking the prosecutor general for spying on judges before sensitive trials involving officials of the government and Blue House. That move is certainly aimed at provoking public sentiment against prosecutors. But Choo went too far because any prosecutors would look into personal information on judges, such as the law schools they graduated from or their inclinations. We cannot accept her accusations of prosecutors’ “illegitimate inspections” on judges.

But Choo, a former judge and lawmaker, is turning a deaf ear. The court must put an end to her abuse of power as justice minister. Due to the whole mess originating with her, the prosecution’s ongoing investigations into massive financial frauds involving the government came to a halt. We hope the court delivers a wise ruling as fast as possible.
(END)

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