The presidential office called for caution Monday in parliament's handling of a proposal to scrap an elite investigation team in the prosecution, as the chief prosecutor warned that the proposal, if adopted, would seriously undermine the prosecution's power to battle corruption.
The move was seen as a de-facto opposition to the parliament's move to abolish the Central Investigation Department at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office, an outlet that has looked into big corruption cases involving high-level people under direct instruction from the prosecutor general.
"If the Central Investigation Department is abolished, who would keep power in check?" a senior presidential official said on condition of anonymity. Creating similar investigation teams won't be as effective as the current team, he said.
Cheong Wa Dae reached the position after presidential chief of staff Yim Tae-hee presided over a meeting of senior presidential secretaries. The top office delivered its position to the ruling Grand National Party, officials said.
On Friday, a special parliamentary committee agreed to abolish the special investigation team as part of judicial reform measures.
Lawmakers leading the drive have accused the department of conducting politically oriented probes.
Prosecutors have strongly protested the decision, saying such a special investigation team is vital to high-profile cases vulnerable to outside pressure and that the decision amounts to "disarming" prosecutors.
The parliamentary move came as the department has been expanding its probe into a massive corruption scandal involving savings banks. Prosecution officials accused lawmakers of trying to abolish the team and block the widening probe.
Prosecutors plan to call in Kim Jong-chang, former chief of the Financial Supervisory Service, as early as Tuesday for questioning over his alleged influence-peddling to lessen the intensity of audits and punishment of Busan Savings Bank.
Also Monday, Prosecutor General Kim Joon-gyu and about 40 senior prosecutors at the Supreme Prosecutors' Office held an emergency meeting to discuss countermeasures.
"We will continue the ongoing investigation into the savings banks" scandal until the end, Kim told reporters after the meeting.
Kim made clear his opposition to dissolve the special investigation team, saying it amounts to "disbanding the Marine Corps headquarters in the middle of making landing attempts."
The top prosecutors said the investigation team has played a role as the main agency looking into high-profile corruption cases while "confronting corruption and massive ills of our society."
"We will follow the people's will on everything, but I cannot accept a future situation where small corruption cases are punished while big ones are overlooked," he said.