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Justice minister to unveil detailed prosecution reform scheme

Cheong Wa Dae, the government and ruling Democratic Party of Korea said on Sunday the Justice Ministry is to announce a plan that would reduce the prosecution’s special investigation units Monday.

Top Cheong Wa Dae officials, Prime Minister Lee Nak-yon, Justice Minister Cho Kuk and ruling party lawmakers held a meeting at the National Assembly Sunday afternoon to address the next step in the reform of the prosecution, a chief Moon Jae-in administration agenda.

Democratic Party spokesperson Hong Ihk-pyo said in a press briefing that a revised regulation “scaling down and rebranding” the prosecution’s special investigation divisions will be announced by the Justice Minister, to be passed at Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

Protesters crowd the street outside the prosecutors` headquarters in Seocho-dong, Seoul, on Saturday. (Yonhap)
Protesters crowd the street outside the prosecutors` headquarters in Seocho-dong, Seoul, on Saturday. (Yonhap)

On Oct. 8, the Justice Ministry mapped out a prosecution reform plan entailing the abolition of over half of the existing special investigation units at prosecution offices across the country.

The prosecution’s special investigation divisions, installed at seven of the 18 prosecutorial district offices, are responsible for conducting probes into mostly white-collar crimes by political and corporate elites.

Under Cho’s proposal, the special investigation units will be replaced by a separate investigative body for crimes committed by high-ranking government officials.

At the meeting, Cho pledged to “carry out the (prosecution’s) reforms at whatever the cost.”

The prime minister urged the parliament to act on the “pressing task” of prosecution reform.

On Saturday, just outside the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office where Cho’s wife was questioned for a fourth time, two competing rallies for and against the minister were concurrently held from around 5 to 9:40 p.m. on streets adjoining the prosecutors’ headquarters in Seocho-dong, southern Seoul.

The pro-Cho weekend candlelight vigil, the fourth to date, saw a particularly riled-up crowd following star liberal figure Rhyu Si-min’s accusation Wednesday that a state-run broadcaster was in collusion with prosecutors.

A speaker at the rally organized by groups backing the Moon Jae-in administration called for the reform of the prosecution and the media, saying they were “above the Constitution and the people,” referring to Rhyu’s claims.

A smaller crowd on the opposite side of the road led by the minor conservative Our Republican Party demanded Cho’s resignation. Saturday’s rally was staged as an adjunct to the main anti-Cho demonstration held Wednesday at Gwanghwamun in central Seoul.

The Justice Ministry said it will also roll out measures for banning the disclosure of indicted suspects later this month.

By Kim Arin (