(2nd LD) Moon approves ministry’s decision on punishing top prosecutor: Cheong Wa Dae

December 16, 2020

President Moon Jae-in has approved the justice ministry’s decision to suspend South Korea’s top prosecutor from duty for two months, Cheong Wa Dae said Wednesday.

The measure against Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl over multiple charges of ethical and legal misdeeds came after the ministry’s disciplinary committee voted to punish him in a marathon session that ended early Wednesday morning.

President Moon approved the decision at 6:30 p.m. after Choo visited his office at 5 p.m. for a related briefing to the president, according to Chung Man-ho, senior presidential secretary for public communication. The measure immediately went into effect.

Chung, meanwhile, added that Choo has tendered a resignation.

This file photo from June 22, 2020, shows President Moon Jae-in (C), Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. (Yonhap)
President Moon Jae-in (L) and Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae in a file photo (Yonhap)
Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl arrives at the Supreme Prosecutors Office in Seoul for work on Dec. 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

This file photo from June 22, 2020, shows President Moon Jae-in (C), Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae (L) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl. (Yonhap)

Moon was said to have said that he “thinks highly of the decision” and will consider whether to accept it. He also said the ongoing initiative to reform power institutions, such as launching a new anti-corruption investigative unit, would have been “impossible” if not for Choo’s drive.

As the person who appointed the top prosecutor, Moon voiced regret over the latest development and urged the justice ministry and the prosecution to get to a fresh start.

In a statement sent to reporters, Yoon’s lawyer said that the top prosecutor will take legal actions against the disciplinary measure regardless of Choo’s offer to resign.

In late November, Choo accused Yoon of violating his obligation of being “politically neutral” as leader of the nation’s state prosecution service.

Yoon’s lieutenants also illegally gathered private information on judges handling major cases, according to Choo. Yoon, however, has denied all the allegations and took issue with the procedural legitimacy of how he was disciplined.

In a press statement, he described the ministry’s move as an “illegal and unjust” step based on “unlawful and groundless pretexts” only aimed at ousting him in spite of his two-year tenure that ends in July next year.

He added he would address the problem in accordance with procedures stipulated in the Constitution and law.

Choo and Yoon, both appointed by Moon, have long been at odds with each other. Since taking office in January, the minister has been at the forefront of the government’s drive to reform the prosecution office said to have excessive power and authority.

Critics of the Moon administration argue that the president is abusing his power to tame the prosecution that has been looking into several scandals involving his confidants.

Yoon is leading opinion polls on the favorability of potential presidential candidates for the conservative bloc but has remained vague in public about whether he’s intent on running in the election slated for the spring of 2022.