[Editorial] Ball in Constitutional Court
Justices must speed hearings, judge prosecution laws strictly
Published : May 6, 2022 - 05:30
Updated : May 6, 2022 - 05:30
President Moon Jae-in promulgated revisions to the Prosecution Office Law and the Criminal Procedures Law, but the situation is not over.

The Democratic Party of Korea and Moon used tricks and expedients to pass the two bills through the National Assembly and promulgate them in the Cabinet meeting.

The revised laws are fraught with problems. Lawmakers and high-ranking officials will have a better chance of avoiding punishment because prosecutors will be unable to investigate allegations related to elections and public officials.

Moon and the party are to blame for preventing prosecution from investigating suspicions involving himself and figures on his side. The apparent reason for Moon to promulgate the bills with just six days left to his retirement is to prevent Yoon from vetoing them.

Police, already overloaded with work, will have new and more difficult cases on their plate. Victims will likely suffer from insufficient police investigations.

Wrongs must be corrected.

The Constitutional Court ruling against the revised laws is the only way to block them from going into effect in four months’ time.

The People Power Party, to which President-elect Yoon Suk-yeol belongs, asked the Constitutional Court to make a judgment on a competence dispute, arguing that the Democratic Party employed expedients that infringed the rights of opposition party lawmakers to deliberate and vote on bills.

The Supreme Prosecutors’ Office formed a task force last month to examine the constitutionality of the laws in question. Together with the Justice Ministry, the office is expected to request a ruling on a competence dispute after the new government is launched.

The Professors’ Solidarity for Freedom & Justice, an organization of about 6,000 former and incumbent professors in 377 universities and colleges across the country, filed a constitutional complaint, arguing that the amendments violate the basic rights of the people.

The ball is in the court of the Constitutional Court. It should hold hearings promptly. The new laws, which shake the foundation of the country’s criminal judicial system, will go into effect in four months.

The unconstitutionality of the laws looks unquestionable.

A Democratic Party lawmaker defected in order to join the agenda coordination committee as an independent lawmaker. It was an intentional defection to tip the scale of vote in the committee in favor of the bills.

The committee is supposed to hold up to 90 days of deliberations, but it ended its session in 17 minutes without deliberation. The National Assembly Law stipulates plenary sessions should open at 2 p.m. but one was opened at 10 a.m. in order to send the bills to the Cabinet meeting for promulgation. In a rare move, Moon postponed the opening of his last Cabinet meeting from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. to approve and promulgate the bills.

The National Court Administration under the Supreme Court expressed a view that it was convincing to regard deprivation of all investigative powers from prosecutors as unconstitutional.

Article 12 of the constitution stipulates prosecutors as officials with authority to request warrants for arrest, detention, search or seizure. A dominant view among legal professionals is that the article means that request for warrants is based on the premise that prosecutors do investigative activities. So, it goes against the constitution to separate investigation from the functions of prosecutors.

A new clause that effectively blocks third-party accusers from appealing police investigations when police close complaints without seeking an indictment can also be viewed as unconstitutional.

If the scope of prosecutors’ indictments must be limited to the range of police investigations, other crimes exposed in the process of investigations will likely be buried.

Eight of nine justices of the Constitutional Court were appointed during the Moon presidency. Five of them are said to be left-leaning.

The Constitutional Court must make a judgment of the constitutionality of the laws strictly from the viewpoint of the constitution, free from ideology and partisanship.

That is the way to defend judicial justice and receive public trust. In a recent poll, more than 60 percent of respondents opposed the revisions. The people are watching.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)