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Controversy emerges over top prosecutor nominee

Kim Oh-soo, nominee for the prosecutor general post, answers reporters' questions at Seoul High Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap
Kim Oh-soo, nominee for the prosecutor general post, answers reporters' questions at Seoul High Prosecutors' Office in southern Seoul, Tuesday. Yonhap

By Jung Da-min

A controversy is emerging over President Moon Jae-in's pick for the nation's top prosecutor position, former Vice Justice Minister Kim Oh-soo.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea (DPK) welcomed the nomination, saying that Kim is the right person to complete the Moon government's prosecutorial reform and lead the organization stably. But the conservative main opposition People Power Party (PPP) said the presidential office must withdraw the nomination, calling the "pro-ruling bloc figure" unqualified to maintain the political neutrality required of a prosecutor general.

Moon nominated Kim for the position Monday, two months after former Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl resigned in early March. Kim must undergo a confirmation hearing at the National Assembly to be appointed.

Former Prosecutor General Yoon had been at odds with the Moon administration, especially with its former justice ministers, Cho Kuk and Choo Mi-ae, over the government's prosecutorial reform, which is aimed at reducing the prosecution's power by giving more to the police and establishing a separate investigative body to handle cases involving high-ranking public officials. The reform has been a key part of the Moon administration's agenda, but also has been a major point of contention between the liberal ruling bloc and the conservative opposition.

Kim is a long-time prosecutor who served as vice justice minister for two years starting in 2018 under former Justice Minister Choo, and is widely known as a "pro-Moon" figure, as he was previously mentioned as a potential candidate for multiple ministerial posts whenever the administration carried out reshuffles.

"If I am appointed as prosecutor general, I will especially focus on stabilizing the organization," Kim told reporters, Tuesday. "I will put a lot of effort into internal unity among members of the prosecution through active communication, to make a trustworthy, people-oriented and fair prosecution."

Moon's nomination of Kim is seen as a move to ensure stability in terms of pushing ahead with major policy initiatives, including the prosecutorial reform, with about a year left before Moon's term ends next May.

Rep. Yun Ho-jung, floor leader of the DPK, said Kim is the "perfect fit to complete the prosecutorial reform," as he was already engaged in the reform work as vice minister.

However, the PPP criticized the nomination, saying its members will not approve him in his National Assembly confirmation hearing set to be held later this month.

"We have to suspect that the Moon administration has a lot of things to hide, seeing the nomination of Kim, who is full of defects, for the post of the top prosecutor," PPP floor leader and Acting Chairman Rep. Kim Gi-hyeon said during a party meeting at the National Assembly, Tuesday. "If the Moon administration keeps glossing over its illegal activities and increasing its political bias, it will face a stern verdict from the people."

The PPP noted that Cheong Wa Dae had recommended Kim for the commissioner post at the Board of Audit and Inspection (BAI) twice, but BAI Chairman Choe Jae-hyeong rejected him both times, citing Kim's political bias.


Jung Da-min damin.jung@koreatimes.co.kr


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