|Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae leaves the Government Complex Seoul after attending a Cabinet meeting, Tuesday. Yonhap|
Yoon returns to work following court decision to halt minister's order
By Bahk Eun-ji
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae's push to remove Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl faced a setback on Tuesday after a court accepted Yoon's request for an injunction to temporarily halt her order suspending him from duty.
Even the ruling bloc is floating the idea of President Moon Jae-in sacking both Choo and Yoon, considering the clashes between the two are creating unnecessary political turmoil between the rival parties and are obstructing the handling of other state affairs.
On Nov. 24, Choo suspended Yoon from duty and formed a disciplinary committee to look into his "serious misconduct," including the alleged illegal amassing of information on judges involved in controversial cases, and alleged interference in investigations to protect people close to him. Choo and Yoon have been at odds over prosecution reform and various investigations involving Yoon's aide and family members.
The Seoul Administrative Court ruled that Choo's order to suspend Yoon from duty should be halted temporarily until a ruling on a separate suit filed by Yoon to void the order is given. It accepted Yoon's claim that his suspension would cause "damage difficult to recover from."
Considering it will take months for a ruling on the second, the court decision immediately negated Choo's order, and Yoon returned to work.
Arriving at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office in the evening, Yoon said, "I'll try my best to protect the spirit of the Constitution."
Earlier in the day, the ministry's inspection committee also concluded the order to suspend Yoon from duty and discipline him had grave procedural flaws.
The inspection committee said there were "significant procedural flaws" in Choo's order. "(The minister) neither notified Yoon of the reason for the order for discipline and suspension, nor gave him a chance to explain," the committee said after an emergency meeting at the Government Complex in Gwacheon. "So the order to suspend him from duty, and the calls for disciplinary action and an investigation were improper."
All seven members of the committee agreed on the matter, it said.
The committee's conclusion is a recommendation and is not binding, but it is likely to push the justice minister to take a step back.
Choo said she would take the committee's conclusion into consideration.
The ministry's disciplinary committee meeting to deal with Yoon's case was slated for Wednesday, but was delayed to Friday, following the court decision and a resignation offer by Vice Justice Minister Koh Ki-young, who would head the committee, immediately after the decision.
The conflict between Choo and Yoon has emerged as one of the country's most divisive political issues, causing a political and public divide over the Moon administration's drive to curb the powers of the prosecution.
Most members of the prosecution from rank-and-file prosecutors to the acting prosecutor general strongly oppose Choo's move and have urged her to drop her decision to suspend Yoon.
With the Choo-Yoon conflicts becoming a political burden on the administration, Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun, during a meeting with the President, Monday, reportedly said Yoon's voluntary resignation may be inevitable and also implied Choo's resignation may also be needed.
The following day Moon had a short, unscheduled meeting with Choo at Cheong Wa Dae.
It was speculated that Moon talked about a "joint resignation" of Choo and Yoon. But the ministry said Choo only reported the current situation to the President and there were no talks about resigning.