Members of the National Police Commission, including Chairman Kim Ho-chul (middle), hold a press conference on Tuesday at the National Police Agency in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. (Yonhap)
A new police bureau under the Interior Ministry was finally launched on Tuesday amid fierce opposition from police officers, represented by the National Police Commission. The NPC expressed regret and warned of legal action against the ministry for not going through the deliberation and resolution process.
Senior Superintendent-General Kim Sun-ho, the head of the National Security Investigation Bureau under the National Office of Investigation at the National Police Agency, became the chief of the newly launched bureau.
“I am well aware of the concerns from the police and the public. Concerns will be addressed by more active communication,” Kim said on his first day as a chief at the police bureau office in Seoul.
“There were lots of misunderstandings and difficulties throughout the process. I am happy to see that the bureau finally took off,” Interior Minister Lee Sang-min said on Tuesday morning.
Only one out of 16 members of the new bureau is a graduate of the Korean National Police University. The appointment seems to reflect the intention of Minister Lee, who formalized the university as a target for reform. Earlier, he had said that “specific forces” -- apparently graduates of the police university -- led the backlash over the launch of the new bureau.
About the concern that such one-sided personnel might push out state-run police university graduates, Lee said, “The opinions of Chief Kim Soon-ho and Yoon Hee-geun, a police chief candidate were included. The superficial ratio is not important.”
The police bureau will support the interior minister’s authority, including the power to propose the appointment of senior police positions. The Interior Ministry said that it aims to manage police-related state affairs according to the rule of law system, unlike previous governments, which exerted their influence in an informal way.
Meanwhile, controversy over the bureau is still ongoing. The NPC, an organization that deliberates and votes on police policy, held a press conference on the same day at the NPA headquarters in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, and expressed concerns over the enforced establishment of a police bureau.
“We intend to carry out legal countermeasures permitted by the law,” said Kim Ho-chul, head of the NPC.
Kim added that the NPC would monitor whether the Interior Ministry sticks to its claims about the bureau, namely that it will exercise the minister’s authority to a minimum; not infringe on police affairs; and not intrude on the police chief’s personnel authority.
The police have maintained their opposition since early June, when the discussion on establishing a police bureau became public. The police have claimed that the new bureau would undermine the independence of the police.
Former NPA Director Kim Chang-ryong, who remained opposed to the new police bureau, resigned a month before the end of his term in July. On July 23, a national police meeting was held against the establishment of the new bureau, and Superintendent Ryu Sam-yeong was suspended for holding the meeting.
The main opposition Democratic Party of Korea continued criticizing the establishment of a police bureau, saying it is an attempt to control the police force. “The establishment of a police bureau is a retrograde decision only to serve the good of the Yoon administration,” Rep. Park Hong-keun, floor leader of the Democratic Party said on a party meeting on Tuesday.
By Lee Jung-Youn (firstname.lastname@example.org