Send to

Feud over ‘police bureau’ escalates

Yoon levels up criticism, calling out police action to be ‘breach against state discipline’

July 26, 2022 - 15:36 By Im Eun-byel

President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to the press on his way to the presidential office in Yongsan, central Seoul, Tuesday. (Yonhap)

The enforcement decree regarding the launch of a new police bureau passed the Cabinet meeting Tuesday, shortly after President Yoon Suk-yeol slammed the collective action of police officers who are against the launch to be a “breach against state discipline.”

The Cabinet approval means the new police bureau under the Interior Ministry will be launched as planned on Aug. 2.

Yoon, who had stayed on the sidelines of the conflict regarding the launch, increased his criticism Tuesday.

“Like many, I am also worried about the collective action of police station chiefs,” Yoon told the press on his way to the presidential office.

“State defense and domestic security are the basics of a nation, and the commander in chief is the president,” he said. “To revolt against the reform and policies driven by the government based on the Constitution and the law could be a serious breach against state discipline.”

After the Interior Minister reported to the president, Yoon said he hopes both parties could resolve the matter soon.

“The president said the new police bureau can improve the police organization through personnel systems and more,” spokesperson Kang In-sun said at a briefing held after Lee reported to Yoon. “The president said he hopes the Interior Minister and the police leadership can settle, communicating about police affairs.”

Interior Minister Lee Sang-min stressed that the police bureau would not control the investigative authority of the police.

“I believe the essence of the issue lies in that exact information on the new bureau under the ministry was not delivered to police officers,” Lee said. “(The launch of the new bureau) is not to invade the independence of the police. It is not to take over the police. While past administrations controlled (the police) abnormally and secretly, now the president will give orders through the Interior Minister.”

At an earlier press briefing held Tuesday shortly before Lee reported to the president, the Interior Minister said the ministry will work on appointing figures for the new police bureau as the enforcement decree has passed the Cabinet meeting.

“For the head of the police bureau, I will appoint someone who is respected within the police and has understanding of the duties,” Lee said.

Lee touched on a new topic, mentioning a reform of the National Police University may take place in regards to the recent conflict. According to some reports, most police officers who are taking part in the protest against the launch of the new bureau are graduates of the state-run elite university. “It is inappropriate for those from a certain background to act as a group,” he said.

It is unfair for those who graduated from the university to start their careers from a higher rank than those who did not, Lee added.

The opposition party continued to express its disapproval of the launch, holding a protest outside the presidential office.

“This would have not happened if Yoon managed state affairs stably,” Park Hong-geun, floor leader of the Democratic Party of Korea, said.

“The Government Organization Act does not state the Interior Minister can supervise the domestic security duties of the police,” he said. “It is not the police who have an idea of a coup. Lee, a close associate of Yoon, is having an idea of an administrative coup,” Park said, referring to Interior Minister Lee Sang-min.

Meanwhile, the police are to expand its meeting slated for Saturday, allowing all officers to join regardless of the rank.

The police organization were to hold a meeting of inspectors and assistant inspectors, following a meeting of superintendents held last weekend. But the meeting has been expanded to officers of all ranks.

“Some 140,000 police officers across the nation will hold a meeting Saturday under the same topic as the superintendent meeting held last week,” inspector Kim Seong-jong wrote on the police network platform.

“We will see if (Yoon Hee-keun, chief nominee of the National Police Agency) can illegally order disbandment to us 140,000 police officers as he did to the superintendents.”

Superintendent Ryu Sam-yeong also held a press conference later in the day, criticizing the launch of the police bureau. Ryu has been ordered to go on stand-by for suggesting the meeting of police station chiefs.

“To launch the police bureau at the Interior Ministry could be an act of coup d’etat,” he said, referring to how the Interior Minister compared the meeting to a coup.

“The passing of (the enforcement decree at the National Assembly) violates the legislative power of the National Assembly, and makes Korea a country ran by enforcement decrees rather than a constitutional state.”

He called for the National Assembly to step in and “take all action” to stop the enforcement decree.

“I am aware that the police, as individuals and an organization, cannot stop the launch of the police bureau,” he said. “But the history will remember the regime’s control on police and its damages.”

By Im Eun-byel (