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Prosecutor general returns to work

Court, ministry panel side with prosecutor general, block minister’s moves

Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl arrives at the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)
Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl arrives at the Supreme Prosecutors` Office in Seoul on Tuesday. (Yonhap)

Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl returned to work Tuesday afternoon, almost immediately after the Seoul Administrative Court approved his suit asking for an injunction against the Ministry of Justice’s decision to suspend him from work.

On Tuesday, the Seoul Administrative Court accepted Yoon’s suit, hours after the Justice Ministry’s inspection committee concluded that it was unjust to suspend Yoon from duty and call for him to be penalized.

Returning to work, Yoon thanked the courts for allowing him to return to work quickly, adding that he will do his utmost to uphold constitutional values.

“As a civil servant of Korea, I would tell everyone that I will do the utmost to defend the spirit of the Constitution and legalism,” Yoon said.

The committee meeting was convened to review the legalities of Minister of Justice Choo Mi-ae’s decision to suspend Yoon from duty and her request that the chief prosecutor be penalized.

According to reports, the committee concluded that there were significant procedural errors in the call for penalties for Yoon. The errors included not informing Yoon of the reasons he might be penalized, and not giving him a chance to explain himself.

The committee also concluded that requesting penalties for Yoon, suspending him from duty and requesting an investigation into Yoon were all unjust.

The Justice Ministry, however, said it would continue with the process of penalizing Yoon according to “law and procedures.”

While the committee’s conclusion is favorable to Yoon, who has filed a suit to lift his suspension, the decision is not binding and will not necessarily influence the disciplinary committee that is set to meet Wednesday.

Yoon’s legal representative has requested the committee meeting to be postponed, claiming that the prosecutor general has not been given the time to prepare his defense. Lee Wan-kyu, Yoon’s representative, also said that the Justice Ministry is ignoring the request to view related records and to reveal the list of disciplinary committee members.

Choo removed Yoon from duty last week, citing the results of a Justice Ministry audit. According to the ministry, the audit found a number of irregularities in Yoon’s conduct since taking office, such as the surveilling of judges assigned to politically sensitive cases, including that of former Justice Minister Cho Kuk. Choo also said the audit concluded that Yoon had interfered with the Justice Ministry’s audit of him, as well as with investigations concerning former Prime Minister Han Myoung-sook and alleged collusion between a journalist and a ranking prosecutor.

Choo, meanwhile, is said to have held private meetings with President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun separately before and after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting. Details of the meetings have not been disclosed, but the news is fanning speculation that the administration is leaning toward persuading both Yoon and Choo to step down.

The Justice Ministry rejected the speculation, saying that Choo briefed the president and the prime minister on the situation regarding Yoon, and that her resignation was not discussed in the meetings.

As the battle between Choo and Yoon continues, the main opposition People Power Party is pressing the ruling Democratic Party of Korea to launch a parliamentary investigation into the developments surrounding Choo and Yoon, as well as high-profile cases concerning the alleged connection between the prosecution and the media.

The idea of a parliamentary investigation was first raised by Democratic Party Chairman Rep. Lee Nak-yon, but the ruling party has since backed down on the issue.

The public, however, appears to favor the idea of a parliamentary investigation. According to a poll conducted by Realmeter, 59.3 percent of respondents replied that a parliamentary investigation was necessary, while only 33.4 percent said it was unnecessary.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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