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Injunction blocks disciplinary action against South Korea's Prosecutor General

A South Korean court has created turmoil on the left by issuing a preliminary injunction against the disciplinary commmittee's judgement that Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol, violated his professional duties by improperly investigating judges and failing to the maintain political independence of his office. Other specifications charging his interference in cases where he, his family or subordinates had an interest, and therefore a professional conflict of interest were not addressed by the disciplinary committee. Yoon's petition for a injunction was grounded on a contention that he could not be suspended or removed from office by this disciplinary procedure because the Prosecutor General's office was intended to be independent of outside political interference as a constitutional matter. So it appears that the Prosecutor General's office is now some kind of "fourth branch" of government in Yoon's view. Before the injunction was issued many legal scholars regarded the petition for injunction as unlikely to succeed, particularly because Yoon was only temporarily suspended from office for a short period, two months, and was not barred from reassuming his position as Prosecutor General. Some democratic representatives in the National Assembly and Justice Party representatives are now calling for Yoon's impeachment. Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae, who initiated the disciplinary proceeding, nominally Yoon's superior, is also calling for his impeachment.

(Image Source- 열린공감TV) Chu Mi-ae Justice Minister of South Korea (left) and Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol, her insubordinate subordinate.

Some of the ruling Democratic Party in the National Assembly (174 seats) are calling for the impeachment of Yoon Seok-yeol. Democratic Party leaders however are calling for adherence to the legislative plan to reform the criminal justice process and the offices of prosecutors and judges by implementing the Public Office Corruption Committee, and the separation of investigative and prosecution decisions in law enforcement. The fear is that judges would not confirm a bill of impeachment and that the democratic administration would end in a fiasco. The leaders also wish to stay focused on the worsening pandemic situation in South Korea.

Chu Mi-ae, the Justice Minister. tendered an offer to resign to President Moon Jae-in when the weak two month suspension decision against Yoon for professional misconduct came down from the disciplinary committee. Clearly, the administration was anticipating a stronger disposition such as dismissal from office. The disciplinary committee's determination suggests a compromise verdict acknowledging Yoon's professional misconduct but unwilling to take on the so called "cartel of special interests" dominating the prosecutorial and judicial branches. The committee left it to the courts to take on the so called "Yoon division," within prosecution offices, along with the media and chaebol interests on the right, supporting Yoon. Consequently, Yoon has returned to work and will continue his attack on the democratic administration by implementing new politically motivated investigations and prosecutions in the hope of toppling Moon Jae-in from power, and tarnishing any significant rival potentially running against Yoon during the next presidential election.




Dec. 16: Some clarification from an SBS report on the "four out of six" specifications or charges against Yoon found to be supported by the disciplinary committee are portrayed in this graphic:

Four specifications were found to be substantiated by the disciplinary committeee. The first substantiated charge deals with the creation and distribution of results of unwarranted investigation into judges in the Justice Department. Two other specifications dealt with the so called Channel A News incident, in which a reporter for Channel A, Lee Dong-jae, corresponded with a defendant in jail for financial crimes and threatened the defendant or otherwise improperly attempted to induce him either directly or through his agent mulitple times to commit perjury to incriminate Yoo Shi-min, a well known liberal media pundit and director from the No Mu-hyun foundation. It is alleged that the Yoon's close subordinate Han Dong-hun coordinated these unlawful activities with the Channel A reporter. Subsequently, Lee and Han were placed under investigation. The two specifications charged that Yoon interfered with prosecutors investigating the Channel A incident, and interfered with the investigation itself. The fourth charge found to be supported by the committee was that Yoon harmed the political independence of the prosecutors office.

Two specifications of misconduct of the six were not found by the court. The findings appear not to have been addressed rather than a finding of no misconduct. Number five alleged improper meeting with owners of the media (subject to investigation or litigation at the time). Number six involved interference with prosecutors investigating his own conduct.

South Korea: Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol suspended for 2 months by Discipline Committee

Yoon Seok-yeol, Prosecutor General of South Korea. Yoon is the current leading contender on the right to be a candidate for president of South Korea.

Yoon Seok-yeol was suspended for two months by a Disciplinary Committee appointed by the Ministry of Justice after a hearing of two days. Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae referred six allegations of professional misconduct to the committee for disposition. The committee found grounds to support four of six charges of misconduct against South Korea's top prosecutor. Some of these six allegations pertained to his earlier service as the Chief of the Seoul Central District Branch Office. The decision to discipline Yoon, the sitting Prosecutor General of South Korea was described as "unprecedented" by YTN news in their brief news bulletin and video. Which of the six charges of misconduct were recognized by the committee was unclear.

Both before and after each of the two days of hearings at which testimony was adduced, Yoon's attorney's moved to cancel the hearing based on a contention that the committee's authority over the prosecutor general was unfounded and unconstitutional. Additionally Yoon asserted in one motion that the hearing officials all had conflicts of interest. According to one report, discussions with Yoon's representatives resulted in three officials being replaced by alternate committee members. A renewed motion on the second day of hearings, was summarily dismissed. Yoon doesn't recognize the committee's standing or decision and intends to challenge the determination in court. The Ministry of Justice indicated that the decision will be forwarded to the Blue House for approval or denial as soon as possible. News accounts concerning the committee hearing process indicated that President Moon's office would or could not modify the decision but only approve or disapprove it.

It's fair to say that democratic and progressive elements in South Korea are disappointed by the decision having looked forward to Yoon's dismissal from office and perhaps other administrative sanctions. Reportedly, there were lengthy deliberations among the board members keeping them up virtually all night until the decision was announced at approximately four am, Seoul time. It does have the appearance of what we in the US call a "compromise verdict." As an administrative disciplinary board, it is likely that some members did not feel comfortable treating Yoon Seok-yeol's transgressions in more decisive fashion. Yoon is currently considered the leading conservative candidate for the next presidential election in South Korea in 2022. An outright dismissal from office would have rocked the South Korean political world. The equivocal nature of the decision ensures the ongoing political controversies and legal maneuvers, concerning alleged criminal acts by Yoon, his wife, and mother in law will continue. Yoon's critics will point to the anticipated opening of the Public Official Corruption Committee which is a new body appointed by the 20th Session of the National Assembly. This body has the authority to hear criminal corruption cases referred for criminal prosecution. Yoon's critics want his case to be the first case heard by the new body. Critics also call for his impeachment by the National Assembly.

Incidentally, the National Assembly introduced a proposed election law requiring prosecutors and judges who wished to run for electoral office to leave their office at least one year before registering as a candidate. This law if enacted would require Yoon to resign in March 2021 in any case if he wishes to run for office.

Seoul - Unlawful far right demonstrations expected on Independence Day August 15

(Source- 뉴스반장 Aug. 14 ) Political banner in Gyeongnamdo. Taegukki (South Korean Flag) assembly in Seoul, August 15. Remove the left wing dictatorship of Moon Jae-in. Advertisements for the demonstration were also carried in the conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper.

South Korea's celebration of Independence Day from Japan (August 15, 1945) will likely be marred by unlawful demonstrations in central Seoul. The groups planning the demonstrations in the midst of public health decrees barring large assemblies will meet in the usual venues. Taegukki group members will assemble in front of the old National Bank building. The more numerous far right evangelicals will march on Gwanghwamoon, not too far from the US embassy. Other authoritarian elements will meet at the Syngmun Rhee Plaza. There is some talk among the more extremist elements of marching on the Blue House, which, if it occurs, will almost certainly result in arrests and possibly violence.

(Source- 뉴스반장 Aug. 14 ) Pastor Jeon Gwang-hun, (left) leader of the controversial right wing evangelical Christian Council of Korea. Last January Jeon was found guilty of ten charges of violation of public election laws involving illegal fund raising. He was released on bail April 20 pending rehearings on appeal. One of the conditions of bail is that he not attend political assemblies. Given his lawyer's arguments in court, he may not comply with that condition.

The religious elements, which have been led by "pastor" Jeon Gwang-hun in the past, will hide behind their claim that the health ban on large assemblies is a violation of their religious freedom. This time, they seem to be avoiding overt political threats of overthrow of the democratic Moon Jae-in administration, yet there is an implied physical threat in the willful violation of the emergency health measures declared to protect the public health. Public health experts anticipate that the demonstrations will result in new clusters of covid-19. Typically, once at the demonstration, Jeon and the other evangelicals use political speech similar to the more radical Taegukki paramilitary types.

(Source- 뉴스반장 Aug. 14 ) Typical right wing social media post advertising the unlawful assembly in Seoul. "Independence Day Assembly at Gwanghwamun on August 15. Expel the administration of Moon Jae-in. United we will live, dispersed we will die."

The same cannot be said for the extremist Taegukki group, which explicitly calls for the "dictatorship of leftist President Moon Jae-in" to be driven out along with claims that the overwhelming victory of the democratic party candidates in the April 15 general election to the National Assembly were the result of election fraud and the democratic government is illegitimate. There is simply no evidence of this.

Police sources are advising the public to stay home to protect against the spread of covid-19 and making it clear that large public assemblies in Seoul are illegal. Organizers and group leaders arriving in Seoul to carry out large demonstrations will be arrested. Members of such groups are also warned that they may be subject to criminal charges as well. According to the source cited for the photographs here, so far the police have apparently not decided to deploy water cannons and tier gas.

The plans for public assembly are a direct challenge to democratic rule in South Korea. This is the latest of an escalating series of miscalculations by the right designed to destabilize the Moon administration and the now filibuster proof democratic majority in the National Assembly. The gatherings in Seoul will be a direct challenge to the public health ban on large assemblies in public venues in Seoul since the former mayor of Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon dispersed the right wing demonstrations earlier this year. The objective of the renewed demonstrations is to bring down the most democratic government South Korea has ever had.

South Korea: Press- Prosecution collusion affair- the cast

Lee Seong-ryun, Chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Branch, Seoul, regarded as the "restraint" on Yoon Seok-yeol. Ultimately, Lee could be a candidate for Prosecutor General, the top position now currently held by Yoon Seok-yeol when the latter's term ends. Lee may be indispensable to the independence of the current investigation into alleged press-prosecution collusion. Investigation of the immediate case of the Channel A News scandal centered around Lee Dong-jae and former Senior Prosecutor Han Dong-hun is the focus of a struggle for control of prosecutorial powers.

Ultimately, the Justice Ministry is seeking to break the effective monopoly held by Yoon Seok-yeol. The political situation affecting Chief Prosecutor Lee's struggle against Yoon and the conservative cadre of attorneys in the so called group of experts is complex. A desire to maintain an independent investigation of suspected press-prosecution collusion by the Central District Branch may be holding up Justice Ministry announcements concerning 11 high level prosecutor appointments throughout South Korea that were expected last week. Those appointments by Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae are expected to further attenuate the power of Yoon's "division ( 사단 )."

The above is a graphic of the original report by MBC News of the relationship among Lee Chol, former VIK representative in prison on financial charges; the "informant" an associate of Lee Chol; and (unidentified at the time) former Channel A News reporter Lee Dong-jae. Reporter Lee sent Lee Chol four letters in prison inquiring into the financial consideration he provided to Yoo Shi-min, an influential pundit, foundation director, and former minister. Lee then met three times with the anonymous informant who acted as Lee Chol's proxy allegedly to see what Lee Chol could get for offering false testimony in an investigation against Yoo Shi-min. The informant reported exclusively to MBC that former Channel A News reporter Lee had shared recorded audio of a conversation with prosecutor Han Dong-hun to show he was acting with the backing of a prosecutor with close ties at the highest level.

Yoo Shi-min appears in the white jacket in this graphic referring to the MBC exclusive report. According to the anonymous informer, Lee Dong-jae persistently made demands to take down Yoo Shi-min. Allegedly he said, "Yoo was the face of a monster." Yoo Shi-min as the director of the No Moo-hyun foundation is a well known and outspoken pundit of the democratic left who appears regularly in South Korean media. (No Moo-hyun was the late liberal president of South Korea). Yoo was the Health and Welfare Minister in the administration of former President No Moo-hyun.

Yoon Seok-yeol, current Prosecutor General of South Korea. Yoon is the current leading contender on the right to be a candidate for president of South Korea. He polls only at 13.8 percent. Lee Nak-yon, the leading democratic party contender polls at 25.6 percent. Yoon is allegedly responsible for carrying out a series of politically motivated prosecutions, in particular the cases against Yoo Shi-min, former minister Cho-Guk, and Kyeongkido governor Lee Jae-myeong. Lee Jae-myeong was acquitted recently of rather bizarre charges revolving around involuntary commitment proceedings against his brother. Lee was accused of abusing his official position, and impersonating a law officer. Lee Jae-myeong is now ahead of Yoon in presidential preference pools at about 19.6 percent. Had Governor Lee been convicted he would be disqualified from running for or holding political office.

The improper investigation of Yoo Shi-min was allegedly carried out by Yoon's right hand man, former Senior Prosecutor Han Dong-hun. The prosecution of former Justice Minister Cho Guk, and his wife, as well as Governor Lee and Director Yoo, were intended to affect the outcome of the April 15 elections by branding leading democratic figures as criminals and hypocrites. Former Justice Minister Cho was also the lead advocate for the so called fast track prosecutorial reforms. Cho has been pursuing litigation against multiple reporters from mainstream media and the internet who have libeled his wife, and daughter, and has obtained some sizable judgements. His prosecution is still pending but his wife was found innocent recently of several charges. The cases appear to be faltering.

Last week Yoon's panel of experts reviewing evidence collected before the investigation of the Channel A News case was complete recommended ending the investigation and resolving the matter against Prosecutor Han Dong-hun with a no indictment disposition. The recommendation is little more than a public relations effort to be exploited by the conservative media supporting Yoon. Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae had removed the Prosecutor General's supervisory role over the investigation and disposition of the case because of an apparent conflict of interest.

Yoon is also suspected of burying criminal investigations into leading conservatives, including Na Kyung-won and Hwang Kyo-ahn and right wing national assembly members who conducted themselves unlawfully last spring in futile attempts to obstruct passage of the so called fast track prosecutorial reform measures by National Assembly. Yoon and the right in general view the democratic administration's attempts to interfere with his unfettered discretion on who gets prosecuted and who doesn't, as despotism dressed in democratic clothes.

Senior Prosecutor Han Dong-hun (on left) vs. Chief Criminal Investigation, team 1, Jung Jin-oong (right). War by proxies? Han suspected of colluding with former Channel A reporter Lee Dong-jae, was served with a warrant last week by a the lower ranking prosecutor who works for Lee Seong-ryun, the Chief Prosecutor of the Seoul Central District Branch Prosecutor's office. Han resisted Jung's attempt to seize his hand phone and a physical confrontation ensued. Jung went to the hospital later allegedly for injuries sustained in the altercation. Han is regarded as someone quite close to Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol, and as his proxy. Jung is regarded as the proxy for Chief Prosecutor Lee Seong-ryun.

Observers regard the conflicting stories of Han and Jung as to how the altercation ensured as an embarrassment to prosecutors in general. Han is obviously trying to portray himself as the victim, and at the same time create legal grounds to block the admissibility of any evidence obtained from the audio files on the sim chip from his phone. Han claims Jung committed a battery without cause. Han's account is widely portrayed in the conventional conservative South Korean media, and also on social media by conservative "akpullers" ( 악플러 ) or trolls as they are known in the west. A drawing in Cho-sun Ilbo of the alleged assault on Han by Jung was indicative of how partial the owners of that media network are to Yoon.

In the above picture, Lee Dong-jae, the former Channel A News reporter suspected of attempting to create false testimony against Yoo Shi-min. He is at the center of litigation in the Channel A News case. He is committed to pre-trial confinement after being ruled a potential threat to investigation of evidence by the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office, investigation team number one. Last week a Seoul court ruled that a search warrant for his hand phones and notebook was executed improperly. Here Yoo Shi-min is quoted in a MBC News interview saying it would be best legally if Lee Dong-jae disclosed all he knows related to suspected press-prosecution collusion.

Seoul Judge Cancels Lee Dong-jae Search Warrant

A central district Seoul judge upon application by the attorney for Lee Dong-jae, the now jailed former reporter for the ultra-conservative Channel A News, has canceled the search warrants by which his hand phones and notebook were obtained by investigators.

Lee Dong-jae is a prime suspect in the so called press-prosecution collusion scandal. Lee is under investigation for attempting to coerce Lee Chol, currently jailed for financial crimes related to his investment business, into incriminating political pundit and former cabinet minister Yoo Shi-min with false evidence. Senior prosecutor Han Dong-hun is suspected of conspiring with Lee Dong-jae to do this. Han Dong-hun is allegedly close to the Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol. The judge's ruling effectively withdraws the evidence, including forensic evidence of audio files of conversations between Han and Lee, and the incriminating "timeline" and transcripts associated with them from consideration in the case. The decision by Judge Kim Chan-hyun was made the same day the Prosecutors' Committee to Consider Investigative Evidence recommended against investigation of Han Dong-hun and for a no indictment disposition. The latter recommendation has no procedural weight according to the Ministry of Justice and is regarded as a public relations effort by the Prosecutor General's Office to influence the media and public opinion. The Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office is conducting an independent investigation and the Ministry of Justice ordered the Prosecutor General to desist from interference.

The judge stated that the procedure followed to execute the warrant issued last April to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's investigative team was defective, failing to provide sufficient notice to Lee Dong-hae, of the contents of the warrant, the items to be seized and the circumstances surrounding the seizure. According to UPI Korea, there was an attempt to serve the warrant at the homes of two reporters and at the office of Channel A News, April 28. The phones were not surrendered at that time due to resistance by the reporters. Then later on May 18, a representative from Channel A News surrendered Lee's two hand phones and notebook at a Seoul Hotel to investigators. On May 22, Lee personally visited the Seoul Central District Office to participate in the forensic investigation of which he alleged he had not been informed. At that time he filed his application for judicial review regarding the warrant.*

*법원 "영장 표지만 보여준 檢…채널A 기자 압수수색 위법" 주영민 2020-07-27 08:59:44

There are various criticisms of the decision vacating the warrant. One is that the phone wasn't in possession of Lee Dong-hae, but was in the custody of Channel A News, and was surrendered by a representative of Channel A News. Channel A News had the phone in their custody after the dispute arose. Lee is claiming a "legal right" to notice of the warrant contents at the time of execution. One report suggested Lee had a right to participate in the forensic evaluation of the evidence which was violated by the nature of the warrant execution. Ironically, another judge had ruled recently that Lee Dong-jae be confined pending the investigation because he was a threat to the collection of evidence. The UPI report says an application by Lee Dong-jae for return of the evidence and withdrawal of any forensic evidence was submitted on July 27 but not yet accepted for review.

Comments on South Korean social media by journalists and pundits have criticized the decision which obstructs the investigation as a practical matter. An attorney for the investigation team, observing an appropriate professional demeanor, tactfully said they would examine the "grounds and reasoning" of the decision and consider filing an appeal. The seized items have not yet been returned to Lee Dong-jae pending a decision by the investigating team whether to proceed with an interim appeal on the illegality of the warrant execution. Whatever happens the stall tactics and the media circus conducted by the conservative media and Prosecutor General's Office continue. Prosecutor Han Dong-hun has a guaranteed podium in the Chosun Ilbo, where he ludicrously portrays himself as "martyr." One pundit noticed the similarity to Hwang Kyo-ahn's rhetoric during his theatrical hunger strike. The whole objective of the press prosecution scheme to frame Yoo Shi-min, a spokesperson for the legacy of No Mu-hyun and the popular democratic reform elements in South Korea was to negatively affect the April 15 general election in favor of the Mi Tong Dang conservatives. The same was true of the prosecution against former Justice Minister Cho Guk. The South Korean public perceived these schemes for what they were, and the conservatives went down to a historic electoral defeat. The conservative mainstream media and public prosecutors' offices are, in effect, conducting a Custer like last stand until they can get to the next general election.

South Korea: When the Crow Flies, a Pear Falls from the Tree

These are the last few paragraphs to my most recent write up about the press-prosecution collusion scandal in South Korea. This is a power struggle playing out in the courts and media which I've been interpreting for a few months.    It's almost a watergate gate type meltdown, with a discussion of the audiofiles now dominating the headlines.  It's difficult to keep up with all the developments which will determine the future of South Korea.   If you are interested in the details about the audiofiles and the so called Channel A News case of press prosecution corruption see:

South Korea's Press-Prosecution Collusion Scandal: the audio transcript July 23

.....There are several other cases in the queue of suspected prosecution-press collusion aimed at high profile democratic politicians who have been either been investigated, indicted or convicted to remove them from the political scene. The pending trials, of the former Justice Minister Cho Guk and his wife; the current governor of Kyeongkido, Lee Jae-myeong (acquitted last week); and the former Prime Minister Han Myung-sook (who was convicted on false testimony and served her sentence) are part of this pattern. There are others. The significance of the Yoo Shi-min Channel A News case is that it presents an immediate investigative challenge to the Prosecutor General's Office. It is a first attempt by the Democratic administration to get some oversight over a prosecution process that appears to have gone wild. Some critics say the unchecked abuse of power by Prosecutor General Yoon represents the final legacy of right wing authoritarian rule in South Korea. Lee Jae-myeong was a potential candidate for presidential office after President Moon's term ends. The prominent and charismatic former Justice Minister Cho Guk was also a political threat to the vested chaebol interests.

Addendum 7.24

YTN News now reports that there were additional phone calls made by Lee Dong-jae to Han Dong-hun on 3.18 and 3.20 which correspond to the timing of meetings with the "informant." It is plain for all but those who refuse to see, that Prosecutor Han Dong-hun was "outsourcing" an unethical investigation to reporters at Channel A News. Channel A denies the allegations but will not comment on the grounds for disciplining other staff at the time Lee Dong-jae was fired. To make matters worse a former Justice Minister has disclosed that he learned that Yoon Seok-yeol had a secret meeting with the CEO of Chosun Ilbo while that powerful conservative media organization was subject to several lawsuits from labor and public interest groups, and one criminal investigation into the CEO's son for embezzlement and breach of trust. Yoon's office refuses to confirm the allegation. The legal analyst made reference to a Chinese proverb, "When the crow flies, a pear falls."*

*烏飛梨落. 오비이락 When the crow flies a pear falls from the tree. A strange coincidence arouses suspicion. Naver.com

Is all this correlation of evidence proof of guilt? The analyst said that he felt the legal committee of senior lawyers Yoon had established to consider the evidence against prosecutor Han, and former reporter Lee, would probably avoid a hasty decision, and await the development of further evidence to confirm the circumstantial coincidences in the evidence thus far. The decision of the ad hoc committee to consider evidence in the case and then vote on whether the investigation should proceed or whether indictments should be preferred, is completely without authority in the view of the Ministry of Justice. Other observers have commented that it is a trick to allow the media and Prosecutor General to save face by trying the press prosecution collusion cases in the media. The investigating team of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office was granted the authority to conduct a completely independent investigation without interference from Prosecutor Yoon's office because of conflict of interest. Yoon continues to ignore Justice Minister Chu's orders.

South Korea's Prosecutor General "waves the white flag?"

(Source-YTN 뉴있저, 7.9.20) Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-yeol v. Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae. Yoon finally raises the white flag; Chu regrets missing her chance. The graphic depicts the chronology of the showdown over the disputed investigation of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office into the so called press prosecution collusion scandal:

July 2: Minister Chu gives notice that investigative command powers are withdrawn (from Yoon).

July 8 (am): Minister Chu gives final notice to Prosecutor General Yoon- "your response is requested by tomorrow morning at 10:00.

July 8 (pm): Yoon submits a proposal for an independent investigation office. Chu rejects Yoon's compromise proposal

July 9 The Prosecutor General accedes to the Justice Ministers command.

In the immediate case under investigation, a senior prosecutor, Han Dong-hun, close to Prosecutor General Yoon, allegedly colluded with Channel A News reporter Lee Dong-jae, to support a prosecution for political purposes by soliciting false testimony. Prosecutor General Yoon has been interfering in the conduct of the investigation by the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office investigative team. He attempted to have a division of his office supervise the investigation and then diverted the investigation for consideration by a so called board of experts. Justice Minister Chu's actions to remove Yoon's influence over the investigation, were based on legal authority reported to have been put in place on January 28, 2020, by the former Justice Minister Cho Guk, who was working to implement the democratic party's legal reform measures promoted by the Moon administration. Yoon had no other apparent options left, other than compliance as he could have been fired for insubordination. Thus far, President Moon has refrained from directing Yoon's removal without a clear cut foundation in the law. YTN presented differing opinions on whether Minister Chu actually wanted to remove Yoon. Certainly, that involves a political as well legal calculation. Such may be forthcoming at a later date as the alleged improper activities of the prosecutor's offices, hopefully, will now be subjected to unimpeded scrutiny.

It is somewhat amusing to consider that in political circles some had discussed the possibility that Yoon allowed this protracted public dispute with the Justice Minister to serve as a platform for a future presidential candidacy. YTN analyst Lee Dong-hyung suggested his leadership has been weakened by the ongoing dispute. Yoon's position had been shaken despite his arrogant assertion recently that it takes a lot to move his one hundred kilogram plus body. This is almost as poorly formulated a strategy as those of Hwang Kyo-ahn and Na Kyung-won before the April 15 elections whose transparently confrontational and poorly considered tactics earned them and their party a disastrous outcome at the polls. Yoon's stubborn recalcitrance and insubordination have only earned more public distrust, as one speculates on his motives to interfere with the investigation of press-prosecution collusion. Yoon's motivation for not resigning at this point is regarded simply as pride and ambition by some observers. Alternately, he can remain as the point man for the right in the daily news cycle, and also attempt to indirectly influence outcomes as to the prosecutors from his inner circle who might be subject to investigation at some future point. Nevertheless, the YTN analyst contended that the issues underlying the power struggle between Yoon and Justice Minister Chu began as a partisan issue, and the ultimate results of the investigation will be viewed from the same partisan perspective. The right will criticize any unfavorable outcome as the result of political bias, and there will be continuing partisan resistance on the right to legal reform of the residual corrupt practices affecting the administration of justice in South Korea.

Battle for Control of South Korea's Justice System

South Korean Legal Crisis - Can Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae restrain Supreme Prosecutor Yoon Seok-yeol?

Currently, one method by which the flagging right wing in South Korea attempts to check the growing power of the left is through the power of the Supreme Prosecutor's Office.(1) The current chief prosecutor of South Korea, Yoon Seok-yeol, was appointed by democratic President Moon Jae-in, perhaps without having properly vetted the candidate.(2) President Moon at Yoon's investiture expressed a strong desire that Yoon exercise his office in an impartial and unbiased manner so that the public interest in justice would be well served. However, Yoon is a conservative. He openly supported Na Kyung-won, and Hwang Kyo-ahn, leaders of the right wing party in South Korea, in the last general election, which appeared somewhat inappropriate under the circumstances. The conservatives lost the April 15 election when the Democratic Party won an unprecedented landslide victory in the National Assembly. Both Na and Hwang lost their campaigns for seats in the 21st National Assembly.

Recently, investigative reporting revealed recent examples of political manipulation of the prosecution process to the detriment of the reputation of the administration of criminal justice in South Korea. A flagrant injustice in the spotlight in this regard was the prosecution of former Prime Minister Han Myeong-suk convicted of financial misconduct. There is considerable evidence her conviction was obtained by perjured witness testimony solicited by the prosecution. PM Han's unjust prosecution only recently came to light. She had already served her two year sentence in prison and been released.

The more recent case is that of Yoo Shi-min, a high profile figure on the left due to his prominent position as director of the No Mu-hyun foundation. In the latter case, a reporter for A Channel News, allegedly acting on behalf of the prosecution attempted to solicit perjured testimony against foundation director Yoo to facilitate prosecution for financial crimes. The offending reporter Lee Dong-jae, was reportedly fired by Channel A News on June 25. Three other Channel A employees allegedly implicated in the plan to one degree or another, received suspensions or reprimands. Channel A News is a subsidiary of the conservative Dong A Media group. Complaints were filed against Channel A's reporter, and against a senior prosecutor for his alleged involvement in the scheme to extort perjury for use at trial against Yoo. The accused prosecutor, Han Dong-hun, is allegedly very close to Supreme Prosecutor Yoon Seok-yeol. For shorthand purposes the episode is commonly referred to as the Channel A News case.

The Channel A case stands for a more generalized political corruption of the Chief Prosecutor's Office referred to as (unlawful) press- prosecution alliance.(3) The major conservative mainstream media giants, Dong A, Chosun, and Choongang media groups are allegedly the principal platforms for distributing false, prejudicial, or misleading inside information, from prosecutors conducting investigations to stigmatize targeted political rivals of the right. After creating a public uproar with inflammatory accusations, the prosecutions then are carried out employing evidence obtained by coercing witnesses who typically are already in jail or in prison after convictions for fraud, financial crimes and the like. False testimony is induced by threats against the prisoners or their family members, or promises of favoritism from the prosecution offices.

(Source- 뉴스썰TV, 4.27) Supreme Prosecutor Yoon Seok-yeol (right) greeting prosecutor Han Dong-hun, (far left).

The Channel A case initially had been referred to the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office for investigation. Because the case involves alleged political manipulation by the Chief Prosecutor's Office, and the suspected involvement of Han Dong-hun, allegedly Yoon Seok-yeol's right hand man, Yoon immediately attempted to take supervisory control of the case. His first inclination was to put the Human Rights division of his office in control of the case. (Han protested he was being slandered). The Seoul Central District Senior Prosecutor and other prosecutors in that branch office are reportedly "outsiders" not loyal to Yoon. In June of this year, Yoon's next step was to recruit senior prosecutors and jurists as nominees, mostly related to his office in some way, to become members of a so called Board of Experts to review and consider the evidence in the case. Efforts by the subordinate Seoul Central District branch office to obtain a warrant of arrest for the Channel A reporter, or subpoena prosecutor Han were ignored. The case has became bogged down in a bureaucratic power struggle between the Minister of Justice Chu Mi-ae, and Supreme Prosecutor, Yoon Seok-yeol.

(Source- 뉴스반장 7.2 ) Current South Korean Minister of Justice Chu Mi-ae.

Inevitably, this case is linked with other major developments politically. The first is the successful passage of the prosecutorial reform fast track legislation before the end of the 20th National Assembly. The former Justice Minister Cho Guk, was a major proponent of that legislation promoted by the Blue House, President Moon, and the Democratic Party. One of the very purposes of the Review Board for Public Official Corruption was to preclude the unjustified pursuit of political prosecutions demonstrated in the Channel A case. It is not a coincidence then, that the Central Prosecutor's Office initiated charges against former Justice Minister's wife, professor Jung Kyeong-sim, for an assortment of financial crimes, fraud and influence peddling, as the legal reforms appeared on the horizon. Various accusations were also made concerning fraud in arranging her daughter's college admissions and academic credentials. The effort was intended to portray the former Justice Minister and the democrats in general as frauds and hypocrites that needed to be removed from office.

Ultimately, Justice Minister Cho was also indicted as a conspirator and forced by events to resign. He was also accused of abuse of power while in office. Some observers referred to Yoon's prosecution of the sitting Justice Minister and his spouse as a "coup d'etat." There are reports, regarded as a credible, that Yoon personally ordered Cho Guk's prosecution. Cho's wife, who was jailed on a warrant, is disabled and suffering from the sequalae of an auto accident. She was recently released from jail after six months pre-trial confinement when the judge would not issue another order for confinement. Her lengthy trial resulted July 1 in findings of not guilty on all the major financial crimes of which she was charged. This places her prosecution and that of Cho Guk in the same improper, unlawful and unjust context as the Channel A news case and the prosecution of former PM Han Myeong-suk. The disposition of some other charges involving attempted destruction of evidence, creation of false academic documents, and very thinly based technical charges against Minister Cho for acts while in office, are not clear at this point as the trials and litigation are ongoing. A distant relative of Cho Guk, Cho Beom-dong, was convicted of securities finance violations and received a four year sentence. A personal financial advisor to Prof. Jung received an eight month sentence for concealment of evidence, computer disc drives.

In any case, the outcome of the Cho related trials is not dispositive for Yoon or his former senior prosecutor Han. The faltering case just presents more grist for the public discontent with Yoon's way of doing business. It is the order issued today by the current Justice Minister Chu Mi-ae which is intended to remove Yoon's authority or that of anyone in his office to interfere with the investigation of the Channel A News scandal. The Justice Minister has elevated the status of the chief of the investigation team at the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office to an independent investigator and the Supreme Prosecutor will only get a report when the investigation is complete. The second major element of the Justice Minister's command to Yoon Seok-yeol is to adjourn the so called expert's group to evaluate evidence collected in the case. According to the brief accompanying the order, the recruitment and selection process of this group from within the Chief Prosecutors Office, was not in accordance with legal regulations, was conducted arbitrarily, and did not warrant the public trust under the circumstances. Additionally, it wasn't appropriate in light of the existing jurisdiction of the Seoul Central District Prosecutor's Office for the Supreme Prosecutors Office to conduct a parallel investigation, organize the so called "experts group" or meetings among chief prosecutors designed to affect the outcome of the investigation in light of the Supreme Prosecutor's Office close relationship to the subject of the investigation. In essence, can the Supreme Prosecutor's Office investigate itself? Can it investigate the actions of prosecutors known to be a part of the Supreme Prosecutor's inner circle? Can it select impartial investigators from its own ranks? The answer is clearly no. Public trust and confidence in the Surpreme Prosecutor's office is nonexistent at this point.

It remains to be seen what further obstructions Yoon and Han can place in the path of a credible and effective investigation into these matters which has as its ultimate object restoration of public faith in the offices of prosecutors throughout South Korea, and the administration of justice free from political bias. Some analyst's are anticpating a resignation at some point from Yoon. But if he resigns, he will no longer be in a position to create roadblocks to the investigation, and the relationship of mutual support with Han may be placed in jeopardy.

1)It is probably preferable to translate the position as Director of the Chief Prosecutors Office or Prosecutor General. In light of the excessive power demonstrated by the office over the years, the blog opted for the term Supreme Prosecutor, which political pundits have indicated is a customary practice [ 검찰총장 v. 검찰창장 ] that should be left behind. 추다르크 수사지휘권 발동! 윤석열총장 떨고있나?; @8:35 시사건건 downloaded from youtube 7.2.20.

(2) Prosecutor Yoon's reputation for integrity is somewhat tainted by association with allegations of fraud by his mother in law and spouse in past business translations. Critics in South Korea contend that their ability to get away with past financial crimes rested on trading on Yoon's status as a senior prosecutor. These past alleged transgressions have been rendered moot, for the most part, by the statute of limitations.

(3) ( 언찰유착 ) press prosecution collusion.


This is the Kingmaker in North Korea if there is a succession

Choe Ryong-Hae, Vice Chairman, President

As SPA president, Mr Choe is technically head of state, although real power in North Korea is wielded by Mr Kim and his immediate family.

Analysts say his appointment suggests a generational shift in the North's leadership, especially after the collapse of the Hanoi summit with Mr Trump in February.

Born in 1950, Mr Choe is considered Mr Kim's right-hand man – frequently referred to as the regime's "virtual number two official".


Kim Yo-jong derives most of her power from her brother Kim Jong-un. The other potential successor to Kim Jong-un is his uncle, Kim Pyong-il who is Kim Jong-il's brother. He returned from overseas after a lengthy diplomatic career as ambassador in Europe, where he was essentially in exile for decades. Kim Pyong-il is Kim Il-sung's son. Thae Yong Ho, did an analysis of Kim Pyong-il yesterday in which it was reported that he is under house arrest, since his return in November 2019, because he is a preferable contender for power among the current ruling elites, led by Vice Chairman Choe, who now in their sixties, went to the same schools he did and now serve in the top party positions. KIm Pyong-il always has been regarded as a potential threat to succession, but he has remained a modest public servant with a low political profile to survive. Thae Yong Ho met him overseas in a professional capacity three times according to his interview on Channel A News Top Ten, yesterday. Kim Pyong-il served as ambassador to Poland and Czech Republic in his later assignments. Thae, a North Korean defector from the DPRK embassy in London, was elected to the South Korean National Assembly April 25 from the upper crust Gangnam district is Seoul, as a United Future Party Candidate. (Thae Yong-ho changed his name just before the election for some reason, now it's Thae Ku-min)

(Source- Channel A News Top Ten, 4.24) Kim Il Sung (left); Kim Pyong-il (center); Thae Ku-min aka Thae Yong-ho (right)

Thae's assessment is that there could be a power struggle or purge in the event of Kim's demise, while the old guard clings to the past and regards Kim Yo-jong as too young and inexperienced to rule. Thae prefers that Kim Yo-jong succeed Kim Jong-un. The program depicted Kim Yo-jong as isolated in the top echelons of power in North Korea. Even a nominal succession by her to power would be subject to resistance under the surface by the older and more experienced cadre of party elites who allegedly identify with Kim Pyong-il. The scenario presented is the classic maneuvering that takes place around the royal family before succession during the Chosun dynasty.

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