South Korea's weekend evening streets are once again aglow with the candle lights of its citizens, this time protesting for prosecution reform. Accordingly, reflecting the public’s wishes on October 30, President Moon ordered the prosecution to draw up its own reform measures to improve power control, investigation processes and achieve political integrity. To which Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl reacted by ordering the abolition of special branches at most prosecutors’ offices and the public summoning of suspects. The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office also ordered all prosecutors dispatched to external agencies to return and suspended the use of private vehicles for chief prosecutors. However, the upheaval of deep-seated organizational structure, corruption, and concentrated power definitely deemed an uneasy path to reform.
Former Justice Minister Cho Kuk initiated reform measures by proposing the dilution of authority for direct probes and better human rights protection. Simultaneously, his family was caught up in corruption allegations which not only polarized the country but created even more heated discussions on prosecution reform. While some argued for his resignation, others claimed “protection of Cho Kuk” since without him they believed any efforts for change would be in vain against the power-driven Supreme Prosecutors’ Office.
Cho Kuk’s sudden resignation which happened only three hours after his second-ever press briefing on measures to reform prosecution shocked and deflated the hopes of many. However, the homework of reformation is still a heavy responsibility on the government, and the public has shown an undying passion towards this issue. Protesters for reformation are pushing for an independent investigation organization to check the excessive power and/or corruption of high officials and people involved. As this task was only conducted by the prosecutor office, the new law could help in resolving its political empowerment. On December 3, a vote will be taken in the National Assembly in relation to passing the law.
South Korea is on the verge of a great change which holds the future of the nation’s law and justice. Through the strong but silent candlelight vigils that brought actual change in society, Korean citizens have grown much more confident in their voice and resilience. It is sure that if injustice prevails in the system, the people of Korea will not stand still and change will be actualized.