Human Rights Violations by the Public Prosecutor’s Office in Referring a Japanese Media Reporter to the Seoul Bureau
The question, “Is Korea a democracy?” The question “Is Korea a democracy?
Article on Jan. 29th 2022 by Sarang Kim (Born in 1987, he graduated from Hanyang University, South Korea, and received a master’s degree in speech and international politics from Hanyang University. She has been working in the media since 2013, reporting and writing articles on various issues. She is currently a freelance journalist specializing in Japan-Korea issues, politics, and human rights.)
It has come to light that South Korea’s Office of Criminal Investigation of High-Ranking Officials (Office of Public Prosecutions) has been inquiring into the correspondence of journalists, politicians, and private citizens, raising the issue of the collection of personal information by state authorities.
The Japanese media has demanded a clear reason for the inquiry, but the Public Prosecution Service’s response has been vague. The Japanese media has asked for clarification, but the response has been vague. The Japanese media has criticized the actions of the Public Prosecutor’s Office as the downfall of a democratic nation, while the South Korean media has been reluctant to report the incident.
The Office of Public Prosecutions, which was established as part of the Moon Jae-in administration’s prosecutorial reform, has been criticized for resembling the criminal investigation departments of China and North Korea, thus showing the true nature of the pro-China and pro-North Korea Moon Jae-in administration.
On December 31 last year, the Tokyo Shimbun reported that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had inquired about information on employees of the Seoul branch office. The Tokyo Shimbun staff member in question, who is Korean, requested a record of the investigative authorities’ inquiry into his information on December 24, and received the results on December 30. The Asahi Shimbun similarly reported that its reporter had received the inquiry. A Korean reporter at the paper’s Seoul bureau reportedly received inquiries on his name, resident registration number, address, and cell phone subscription date twice, in July and August.
On August 4, the Mainichi Shimbun reported, “It has been confirmed that the Public Prosecution Service collected the personal information of a Korean reporter from the paper’s Seoul bureau. It has been confirmed that the Public Prosecution Service frequently collects personal information of Korean journalists belonging to the Seoul bureaus of Japanese media.
The media revealed that they questioned the reason for the inquiry into personal information, saying that “newspapers have an obligation to protect the sources of their coverage and that it may threaten freedom of speech.
On January 13, in an interview with Asia Economy, a reporter from the Tokyo Shimbun said, “At least five more newspapers, including the Asahi Shimbun, the Tokyo Shimbun, the Mainichi Shimbun, the Yomiuri Shimbun, and the Nihon Keizai Shimbun, have been inquired about by the Public Prosecution Service. It is extremely unusual for a Japanese media reporter to be subjected to such an inquiry, and the Japanese media has reacted sensitively.
Can South Korea still be called a democratic country?
The Public Prosecutor’s Office’s indiscriminate inquiry into the communications of journalists has been under scrutiny since last year. This is all the more so because the targets are journalists who are critical of the Moon Jae-in administration. In particular, at TV Chosun, which carried out anti-Moon Jae-in reporting, it was revealed that the Public Prosecutor’s Office had persistently checked the correspondence of one reporter several times. At the same time, the correspondence of several reporters working for the courts and prosecutors was also checked.
In addition, there have been allegations of inspections of politicians and private citizens. A representative of a citizens’ group who had accused a member of the ruling party and a board member of the Korean Association of Criminal Procedure Law who had expressed opposition to prosecutorial reform were confirmed to have been among the targets of the inquiry. These were people who had nothing to do with the case under investigation.
The inquiry into the communication data in question has often been taken up as an issue of human rights violation.
Communication data, which includes the names, resident registration numbers and addresses of communication service subscribers, can be accessed by the Public Prosecution Service for the purpose of investigation. If judicial, investigative, or intelligence agencies request the submission of communication materials related to trials, investigations, execution of sentences, national security, etc., telecommunication companies and portals must provide the information in accordance with Article 83, paragraph 3 of the Telecommunications Business Law. If the investigating agency writes down a simple reason for the request and makes it to the mobile communication companies, etc., the information will be provided.
Thus, despite being a democratic country, the violation of basic human rights against citizens is openly and legally practiced in South Korea. In an editorial on April 14, the Sankei Shimbun argued that “the threat to freedom of speech in South Korea has come to light again,” and asked, “Can we still call [South Korea] a democracy?
South Korea’s opposition parties have also criticized the Public Prosecutor’s Office. Kang Soo-sang-na, chief prosecutor of the Women and Children Crime Investigation Division of the Seoul Southern District Public Prosecutors Office, criticized the investigation, saying, “In the process of investigating the alleged accused investigator and the leaked official complaint, the Public Prosecutors Office conducted extensive inquiries into the communications of journalists who were not the subject of the investigation, which is an illegal investigation. Yun Seok-yeol, a candidate for the presidential election of People’s Power, raised his voice, saying, “This is a clear crackdown on the opposition, and we must consider the abolition of the Public Prosecution Service.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office, however, has reopened its doors. The Public Prosecutor’s Office has not explained the reason for the communication inquiry, saying that it is being investigated in accordance with legal procedures. Shin Yool, a professor at Myongji University, said, “Even if it is legal, indiscriminately inquiring about ordinary people, such as journalists and professors, who are not the subject of the investigation, could lead to human rights violations. It is necessary to clarify why the inquiry was made,” he said.
Ruling Party Candidates Remain Silent on the Public Prosecutor’s Office
It is no exaggeration to say that the Public Prosecutor’s Office was established for the benefit of the Moon Jae-in administration. Since its introduction, the department has been criticized for being unconstitutional, and has been likened to an inspection committee in China, a country ruled by a single Communist party. The Public Prosecutor’s Office exercises independent authority that does not belong to the legislature, the executive, or the judiciary, but does not assume responsibility.
Four out of the 12 cases investigated by the Public Prosecution Service since its establishment have been related to candidate Yun Seok-yat. Meanwhile, Lee Jae-myung has turned his back on the allegations against the Democratic Party of Korea candidate.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office legitimately monitors political forces and journalists opposed to the Moon Jae-in administration, and has inspected journalists from the Seoul bureau of the Japanese media. It does not provide a clear explanation, but simply gives a vague answer that it followed the investigation procedures.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office protects the Moon Jae-in administration. The Office of Public Prosecutions, which protects the Moon Jae-in administration, is a reminder that democracy is impossible under the Moon Jae-in regime.