Ahn draws sword against prosecution
Published : Oct 31, 2012 - 20:23
Updated : Oct 31, 2012 - 20:23
He created one of the world’s first anti-virus computer software programs in 1988. Now, he is aiming to remove the most powerful organ in the prosecution, the Central Investigation Department, a task that every reform-minded administration previously failed at.

Independent presidential candidate Ahn Cheol-soo announced on Wednesday a 10-point action plan to reform the judicial arm of the government.

“There have been attempts at reform in the past. But they faced conflict and resistance in various corners and eventually knelt before the vested interests, and by compromising, ended up strengthening their power,” Ahn said in a speech at his campaign quarters in central Seoul. “A prosecutor’s office that does not fear the people has no reason to exist.”

Ahn pledged to establish an investigative office to oversee relatives and the inner-circle of the president for corruption, abolish the Central Investigation Department of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office, expand trials by jury, and revamp anti-trust laws targeting the nation’s family-owned conglomerations, or chaebol.

The top prosecutorial arm is currently vested with exclusive powers to investigate high-ranking government officials, politicians and chaebol owners, as well as private-sector elites.

It has often been accused of politically-charged investigations and unrestrained exercise of its judicial powers.

The progressive candidate’s campaign pledge closely mirrors that of the Democratic United Party’s Moon Jae-in, who also laid out an extensive plan to overhaul the Prosecutor’s Office. Moon has also pledged to set up an independent agency to investigate corruption of the president’s relatives and confidants and to abolish the Central Investigation Department, the focus of supreme prosecutorial powers.

The conservative Saenuri Party’s presidential candidate Park Geun-hye has yet to personally speak out in the mold of Ahn and Moon. But Ahn Dae-hee, who chairs the political reform committee in the Saenuri Party, and who once headed the Central Investigation Department from 2002 to 2003, has also unveiled plans to establish an independent agency to investigate high-ranking government officials on corruption.

But the conservative party has yet to reign in on scrapping the department

In a congressional hearing held in mid-October, Rep. Seo Young-gyo of the Democratic United Party presented her findings that indictments made by the Central Investigation Department had an average acquittal rate of 9.6 percent, compared to 0.36 percent for typical indictments made by prosecutors, resulting in an acquittal rate that was 26.7 times higher.

“Where the Central Investigation Department should be neutral, it has taken itself to working for the interests of certain political factions,” Seo said at the hearing, “[the skewed acquittal rate] represents the degradation of the objective standards of investigations [undertaken by the Department].”

The department has a record of high-profile investigations into the nation’s most powerful figures. It investigated the sons of sitting presidents in the 1990s and also the illegal wire transfer of money to Pyongyang prior to President Kim Dae-jung’s historical summit with North Korea’s Kim Jong-il.

Former President Roh Moo-hyun committed suicide in 2009 after on extensive investigation undertaken by the Department, which uncovered that he had received an expensive watch from an old friend.

By Samuel Songhoon Lee (