Prosecution to end late-hour questioning

SEOUL-- The Supreme Prosecutors' Office (SPO) said Monday it will end late-hour questioning as part of its wider plan to reform judicial practices.

The SPO said it plans to terminate questioning after 9 p.m. "in principle," adding that questioning may continue in special circumstances that have been approved by human rights officers at the prosecution.

Late-hour questioning may also take place when the statute of limitations or the deadline of the arrest is imminent, according to the SPO.

The revision, however, does not apply to reviewing papers, which means that sessions could end after 9 p.m. after suspects or other people involved in the case finish going through documents.

Until now, prosecutors were banned from questioning suspects or other stakeholders after midnight except in special circumstances approved by rights officers.

However, critics had raised concerns that under the current practice, questioning could continue even after midnight when including the time needed to review papers.

The announcement is the latest in the prosecution's self-reform efforts. President Moon Jae-in had ordered the investigative agency to draw up measures aimed at protecting human rights as part of his judicial reform drive.

Earlier this month, the prosecution announced plans to reduce the number of special investigative units that focus on high-profile corruption cases.

It also said it will abolish its practice of publicly summoning suspects. The practice was devised to fulfill people's right to know but also denounced as violating the basic rights of suspects and others by exposing them to the media before their charges are proven.

Moon reiterated his stance on judicial reform at a weekly meeting with his senior aides.

"The people's call, converged as one despite various opinions, is that reforming the prosecution is urgent and desperate, as is protecting its political neutrality," Moon said during a meeting with senior aides, referring to mass street rallies that took place during the weekend.

On Saturday, supporters of the president's judicial reform drive gathered in southern Seoul to voice their support for Justice Minister Cho Kuk and the reform. Organizers claimed 3 million people took part.

Moon stressed that both the government and the National Assembly should heed the demand, urging lawmakers to handle reform bills, including those on creating an independent unit specializing in high-ranking officials and giving more investigative authority to police.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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