Main opposition submits motion to impeach justice minister over reshuffle row

SEOUL-- The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) submitted a motion to impeach Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae on Friday over the recent replacement of top prosecutors probing high-profile scandals involving former and incumbent presidential officials.

The conservative party said it submitted the proposal signed by 108 of its lawmakers to the National Assembly, with its floor leader calling the reshuffle an attempt to "massacre" the prosecution service.

The Ministry of Justice replaced 32 senior prosecutors on Wednesday in a reshuffle that relegated two top prosecutors close to Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl to provincial and less important posts.

Tensions between the prosecution and the presidential office have flared up over the prosecution's investigations into Cho Kuk, the former justice minister known as key architect of President Moon Jae-in's drive for prosecution reform, and other Cheong Wa Dae officials.

Critics of the prosecution blame the prosecution for conducting excessive investigations into the cases.

A motion to impeach a Cabinet member can be passed with the approval of a majority of lawmakers, after it is proposed by one third of legislators.

The LKP holds 108 parliamentary seats in the 295-member National Assembly.

The confrontation came to the fore after Choo said at a parliamentary session Thursday that Yoon "disobeyed" her order over the reshuffle.

Yoon refused to visit Choo to present his opinions on how to replace prosecutors. Prosecution law stipulates that the justice minister recommend the appointment of prosecutors to the president after listening to opinions of the top prosecutor.

The LKP also submitted a request to commence a parliamentary probe into allegations that Cheong Wa Dae and the justice ministry sought to interfere in the prosecution probe.

The launch of a parliamentary investigation requires a majority approval.

Later in the day, a progressive civic group filed a complaint with the police seeking investigation of Prosecutor General Yoon on charges of dereliction of duty. The group accused Yoon of refusing to carry out his duty without a justifiable reason.

Cho, former senior presidential secretary of civil affairs, resigned from the post of justice minister in October after serving for a month. Scandals involving his family prompted his supporters and critics to stage separate massive street rallies over his qualification for weeks.

The prosecution is also looking into some incumbent and former presidential officials suspected of helping Moon's close friend win the Ulsan mayoral race in 2018 and covering up an inquiry into a bribery case of a former Busan vice mayor.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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