Democratic Party races to pass prosecutorial reforms before Yoon takes office

Posted on : 2022-04-11 17:05 KST Modified on : 2022-04-11 17:26 KST
Democrats and their supporters are worried if they wait until Yoon is in office or until after the June 1 local elections, there will be no momentum to reform the prosecution service
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul’s Seocho District is seen here on April 10. (Yonhap News)
The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office in Seoul’s Seocho District is seen here on April 10. (Yonhap News)

Within the Democratic Party, there are growing calls for the National Assembly to pass a bill that would strip the prosecution service of its investigative powers before the end of President Moon Jae-in’s term. Staunch party supporters who believe such prosecutorial reforms will ensure Lee Jae-myung’s political safety are pressuring the current ruling party to expedite the process, while many within the Democratic Party are amplifying the pressure, saying postponing taking action on the bill would only make it more difficult to pass.

Still others within the Democratic Party are expressing concern, saying that the bill should be processed after supplementary measures to address what was said during last year’s review of the legislation and that would prevent the authority of the police from ballooning have been put in place.

The Democratic Party will hold a general meeting of its lawmakers on Tuesday, where it will make a final decision on when and how it will process the bill that would take away the prosecution service’s investigative powers if passed. The majority of Democratic lawmakers agree that prosecutorial reforms should be implemented.

A lawmaker who attended a closed-door meeting for party members regarding the subject said, “Various views were expressed, from the pros and cons of rushing the bill right before the local elections on June 1, to whether taking away the prosecution service’s investigative powers could coincide with measures that would prevent the power of the police from getting out of hand, but it seems like stripping the prosecution of its investigative powers is no longer a viewpoint overrepresented by hard-liners within the party.”

Since holding another general meeting of its lawmakers on Tuesday, the Democrats held several more closed-door meetings, during which the party line has shifted to amending the Criminal Procedure Act and the Prosecutors’ Office Act to limit the prosecution service’s authority rather than newly establishing a separate government organization for investigating serious crimes.

There are many reasons why the speedy legislation of the bill that would curb the prosecution’s power is gaining traction among Democrats.

First, many within the party project that processing the bill after President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol has taken office will result in the president vetoing the bill. Moreover, during standing committee redistribution negotiations, the Democrats promised to hand the leadership position for the Legislation and Judiciary Committee over to the People Power Party.

The fact that the Democratic Party’s most militant supporters are pressuring party lawmakers to push for prosecutorial reforms, which the former believe will ensure Moon’s and Lee’s political safety, is also encouraging the latter to act fast. The dominant view within the Democratic Party is that if they wait until after the local elections, momentum to press for prosecutorial reforms will have died out.

Amid all this, former police officer and current Democratic Party Rep. Hwang Un-ha sent a letter to fellow party lawmakers after the party’s Tuesday general meeting, in which he wrote about the criticism that taking away the prosecution service’s authority may enlarge the authority of the police.

In the letter, whose details Hwang shared on his Facebook page, Hwang stated that “pointing out the shortcomings of introducing a system that could be the lesser evil and suggesting that we design a perfect system instead is akin to an argument against prosecutorial reforms,” and that “proposing that we prepare a highly perfected bill limiting the prosecution’s investigative power after sufficient opinion-gathering is like saying no to the bill.”

But others within the ruling party are voicing concerns that pushing for prosecutorial reforms without having sufficiently established support for the issue among the public could result in backlash.

A member of the party’s leadership told the Hankyoreh, “It’s true that lawmakers are dispirited from pressure from hard-line supporters bombarding them with text messages,” adding that “because of this, not enough efforts are being made to figure out how discrepant the dominant view within the party is from public sentiment, and what public sentiment actually looks like.”

They went on, “Instead of explaining that the excessive power the prosecution holds has caused inconveniences and unfairness to the public, [those pushing for prosecutorial reforms are arguing that the prosecution] will conduct biased investigations [during the Yoon administration], stressing that a political prosecution service should no longer be tolerated.”

“Persuading the public will prove difficult,” they concluded.

By Choi Ha-yan, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to []

button that move to original korean article (클릭시 원문으로 이동하는 버튼)

Related stories

Most viewed articles