[ED] Checks and balances - The Korea Times

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[ED] Checks and balances

Do not try to interfere in prosecution, judiciary

It is no exaggeration to say that the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling party have gone as far as to undermine the prosecution's neutrality and independence from political power. The problem has been getting worse since Moon appointed his close aide, Cho Kuk, as justice minister last month despite the corruption allegations surrounding him and his family.

The presidential office and the leadership of the governing Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are too engrossed in protecting Cho and his family, who face mounting corruption allegations. His wife Chung Kyung-sim, a Dongyang University professor, is under investigation by the prosecution after being indicted on charges of admissions fraud for her daughter. She is also suspected of making dubious investments in a private equity fund and operating a school foundation illegally.

President Moon sent a warning to the prosecution over its "excessive" probe into the Cho family, even calling on it to work out its own reform package. This implies that Moon has put pressure on the law enforcement agency to go easy on the minister's wife. Moon also contradicted what he told Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who was appointed in July: "Investigate incumbent political power sternly (if there are bribery allegations)."

DPK Chairman Lee Hae-chan and other key party members have also invited criticism for interfering in the investigation. Lee even accused the prosecution of collaborating with the opposition parties to leak details about the probe.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Democracy, a DPK-affiliated think tank, released a report calling for judicial reform. The institute criticized the judiciary under Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su for failing to check the unrestricted power of the prosecution by issuing arrest warrants as the agency requested. The institute even cited the ongoing investigation of the Cho family as the first reason it was imperative for judicial reform. The report, however, could send the wrong signal to the judiciary, especially when the prosecution is expected to request an arrest warrant for Cho's spouse soon.

It is hard to understand why the Moon administration and the ruling party are trying to portray the investigation into Cho's wife and other family members as dirt-digging and a "witch hunt." Any Cabinet minister and their family should be subject to investigation if there are suspected of violating the law. Then they must be punished sternly if they are found guilty. The nation cannot build a fair and just society if law-breaking officials and politicians go unpunished.

It is time for the government and the DPK to stop bashing the prosecution and the judiciary. They should respect the separation of powers among the legislative, judiciary and executive branches. A democratic system of checks and balances should not be compromised. Prosecution and judicial reform is more than necessary to ensure the rule of law. But it must not be used to tame prosecutors and judges.



Do not try to interfere in prosecution, judiciary

It is no exaggeration to say that the Moon Jae-in administration and the ruling party have gone as far as to undermine the prosecution's neutrality and independence from political power. The problem has been getting worse since Moon appointed his close aide, Cho Kuk, as justice minister last month despite the corruption allegations surrounding him and his family.

The presidential office and the leadership of the governing Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) are too engrossed in protecting Cho and his family, who face mounting corruption allegations. His wife Chung Kyung-sim, a Dongyang University professor, is under investigation by the prosecution after being indicted on charges of admissions fraud for her daughter. She is also suspected of making dubious investments in a private equity fund and operating a school foundation illegally.

President Moon sent a warning to the prosecution over its "excessive" probe into the Cho family, even calling on it to work out its own reform package. This implies that Moon has put pressure on the law enforcement agency to go easy on the minister's wife. Moon also contradicted what he told Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, who was appointed in July: "Investigate incumbent political power sternly (if there are bribery allegations)."

DPK Chairman Lee Hae-chan and other key party members have also invited criticism for interfering in the investigation. Lee even accused the prosecution of collaborating with the opposition parties to leak details about the probe.

On Tuesday, the Institute for Democracy, a DPK-affiliated think tank, released a report calling for judicial reform. The institute criticized the judiciary under Chief Justice Kim Myeong-su for failing to check the unrestricted power of the prosecution by issuing arrest warrants as the agency requested. The institute even cited the ongoing investigation of the Cho family as the first reason it was imperative for judicial reform. The report, however, could send the wrong signal to the judiciary, especially when the prosecution is expected to request an arrest warrant for Cho's spouse soon.

It is hard to understand why the Moon administration and the ruling party are trying to portray the investigation into Cho's wife and other family members as dirt-digging and a "witch hunt." Any Cabinet minister and their family should be subject to investigation if there are suspected of violating the law. Then they must be punished sternly if they are found guilty. The nation cannot build a fair and just society if law-breaking officials and politicians go unpunished.

It is time for the government and the DPK to stop bashing the prosecution and the judiciary. They should respect the separation of powers among the legislative, judiciary and executive branches. A democratic system of checks and balances should not be compromised. Prosecution and judicial reform is more than necessary to ensure the rule of law. But it must not be used to tame prosecutors and judges.





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