S. Korean Democrats to push bill stripping investigative authority from prosecutors through National Assembly this month

Posted on : 2022-04-13 16:48 KST Modified on : 2022-04-13 16:48 KST
The proposed legislation will strip prosecutors of their investigative authority, but some in the party and across the aisle are concerned with the lack of review of the bill
The Democratic Party holds a general policy meeting for lawmakers on April 12 at the National Assembly. (pool photo)
The Democratic Party holds a general policy meeting for lawmakers on April 12 at the National Assembly. (pool photo)

The Democratic Party decided Tuesday to adopt the complete separation of prosecutors’ investigation and indictment powers as a party platform, with the goal of passing related legislation before the end of the month.

With regard to the three-month grace period before the new legislation would go into effect, it also made plans to discuss reshuffling of the police organizational system — which stands to gain greater powers as a result of the new legislation — and measures for regulating police authority.

The Democratic Party’s announcement of plans to push the legislation through without full deliberation in the remaining month or so before the end of President Moon Jae-in’s term is expected to plunge the domestic political situation into a deep chill amid extreme tactics taken up by both sides.

Speaking with reporters after a general policy meeting of Democratic Party lawmakers at the National Assembly that day, the party’s floor spokesperson Oh Yeong-hwan said the bill for prosecution reform had been unanimously confirmed.

Describing the measures as the “second phase of reorganizations to institutions of power,” he explained, “This involves fully separating the prosecutors’ investigation and indictment powers, with related legislation to be passed during April.”

“We also plan to pursue various measures to strengthen curbs, oversight, and controls on police,” he added.

“In terms of content, it was explained that the police’s appointment authority would be made more transparent, and controls would be left in place for prosecutors’ investigations of police crimes committed in the course of duties,” Oh said.

“The decision was made to pursue stronger autonomy for the police, and in the longer term the establishment of a separate investigative body along the lines of a ‘Korean FBI’ as part of our party platform,” he continued.

To achieve this, the Democratic Party plans to pursue an amendment basically abolishing the prosecutors’ direct authority over investigations as stipulated in Article 196 of the current Criminal Procedure Act. It also intends to amend the Prosecutors’ Office Act to strike all the provisions in Article 4 that specify the prosecutors’ investigative authority in six categories of crime: “corruption crimes, economic crimes, crimes of public officials, election crimes, defense industry crimes, and catastrophes.”

At the same time, the party plans to institute curbs and controls on police by adding new content to the Criminal Procedure Act stipulating that the prosecutors are to continue to investigate crimes committed by police in the course of their duties.

The Democratic Party further signaled that it plans to force the legislation through if opposed by the People Power Party.

“Since People Power Party floor leader Kweon Seong-dong has also proposed creating a task force for judicial system reforms, we’re anticipating that we should be able to deal with things effectively,” predicted Democratic Party senior deputy floor leader Jin Sung-joon.

“If that doesn’t work out, we’ll produce our own legislation, and take measures to ensure that it is passed, if necessary,” Jin added.

According to sources, some of the lawmakers at the general meeting that day voiced concerns that the three-month grace period was too short and that the bill lacks measures to deal with the police’s increased powers, but an agreement was reached that the legislation needed to be passed before Moon’s term ends.

In a statement commenting on the measures, People Power Party floor spokesperson Park Hyeung-soo blasted the Democratic Party for “attempting to change criminal and judicial procedures that have been in effect for 70 years by forcing through [legislation] without in-depth consideration or the suggestion of alternatives.”

Justice Party spokesperson Jang Tae-soo said, “There is a danger here that we’re heading toward extreme confrontation in the National Assembly, which even during this transitional period between administrations should be tending to serious inflation issues and public livelihoods, including those of the self-employed business operators who have been hit hard by the COVID-19 disaster.”

By Song Chae Kyung-hwa, staff reporter; Joh Yun-yeong, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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

Related stories

Most viewed articles