Why not appoint a prosecutor general?
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The Ministry of Justice implemented 721 appointments of mid-rank prosecutors in the largest-ever single reshuffle. It is the third round of appointments under Justice Minister Han Dong-hoon in the Yoon Suk-yeol administration. The common feature in the chain appointments was the promotion of prosecutors who were loyal to or worked with Yoon who headed the prosecution before he stepped down and ran for president, and the demotion of those who had been aligned to the previous Moon Jae-in administration. They more or less returned to their job after being shunned under the previous government for their dedication to their boss Yoon, who was at odds with the governing power.
But the development is abnormal as the move did not comply with the law or common sense. The appointments from the top to mid-level prosecutors were made while the seat of prosecutor general remains vacant. Under the article on appointments in the Prosecution Act, the justice minister recommends the offices of prosecutors based on the opinion of the prosecutor-general. The provision was included during the Roh Moo-hyun administration to prevent unilateral appointments by the justice minister.
Han, who handled personnel affairs for prosecutors at the justice ministry, is well aware of the meaning of the provision. He should have set up an outside committee to recommend the candidate of chief prosecutor as soon as he took office. But Han carried out appointments without screening candidates for the prosecutor-general. As a result, he has broken the Prosecution Act. He replaced 10 most influential senior positions the day after he started office, without even going through the prosecution personnel committee.
Han is suspected of having rushed to appoint mid-level prosecutors rather than waiting for the appointment of a prosecutor general, which could take up to 40 days, in order to push investigations of many cases of power abuse and corruption committed by the previous administration before the prosecution entirely loses its investigation powers under new laws.
Facing the criticism, Han said there was a lot of work to do for the top law enforcement agency. “Waiting for appointments until the appointment of a prosecutor general, which could take months, is neglect of duty,” he said. But his excuse to have carried out appointments on behalf of a vacant prosecutor general “to work for the people” cannot be convincing. A means for a goal cannot be justified. The work for the people can be respected when it respects procedure. It goes against the law and principles frequently emphasized by President Yoon and Han. Han must form the prosecutor-general recommendation committee immediately.
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