I am glad to see you all. The Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of the Interior and Safety are carrying out their very substantial duties of ensuring that justice is served in our society and protecting people’s human rights and safety as well as safeguarding their lives. In the course of responding to COVID-19, these ministries have worked as reliable pillars by monitoring international travelers and those under self-quarantine, operating screening stations and supporting local governments. I commend the hard work of the public servants at these two ministries.
Today, four outside specialists will join our discussion: Attorney Lee Seung-hyeon, Professor Suh Bo-hak, Vice Chairperson Choi Sang-han of the Presidential Committee on Autonomy and Decentralization and Chairman Lee Dong-geon of the National Association of Child Protection Agencies. Also joining us are ruling Democratic Party Chairperson Lee Nak-yon, Floor Leader Kim Tae-nyeon and Policy Committee Chairperson Hong Ihk-pyo, as well as National Assembly Legislation and Judiciary Committee Chairman Yoon Hojung and Public Administration and Security Committee Chairwoman Seo-Youngkyo. I am grateful to you all. Of note, this is likely to be the last time Chairperson Lee Nak-yon participates in his capacity as the leader of the ruling party at a meeting presided over by the President. I thank you in particular for your hard work to date.
This is the first year when the reform of law enforcement agencies begins to take root in the field. The two ministries’ responsibilities are very heavy. This past January, reform decrees to adjust investigative authority came into force and the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) was launched. Now the police, the prosecution service and the CIO will bring one another under democratic control through checks and balances, thereby helping enhance the nation’s capabilities to respond to crimes, including investigations of corruption, while respecting people’s human rights.
As these are tasks intended to transform 70-year-old institutions and practices, confusion might arise on the frontlines until the new system becomes settled. The prosecution service, the police and the CIO should jointly establish a well-coordinated mechanism for cooperation along with defining their roles. I urge the two ministries to make particularly concerted efforts so that the people will sense the advantages of the new system and support the reform drive.
The prosecution service is the backbone that ensures justice is served in our society. The prosecution service should be the most trustworthy law enforcement authority. This agency should be able to make the people trust that the exercise of prosecutorial authority is fair, neither arbitrary nor subjective. Despite the behind-the-scenes efforts of most of the prosecutors, trust in the fairness of the prosecution service has not improved. Prosecutorial reform can succeed only if the prosecution takes the lead in reforming itself. In particular, there must be an institutional improvement that will allow the whole process – from assigning cases to making a decision about whether or not to investigate and indict – to proceed in a fair manner that complies with objective regulations and standards, not with the desires of those in authority.
The police should also quickly develop their abilities to lead investigations. I urge the police to prove that their abilities can also grow when authority is given. We should establish a responsible investigation system centered on the newly launched National Investigation Headquarters and prepare an autonomous police system to improve public order and security services without any disruptions. I also hope that the CIO will complete its staffing at the earliest date possible and meet the expectations of the people.
With investigation authority reforms and the launch of the CIO, we have taken a huge step toward reforming law enforcement agencies. However, this does not mean it is finished. Separation of the powers to indict and investigate, which is for checks and balances as well as protection of human rights, should be pursued continuously going forward. Although it is a legislative matter, diverse opinions – including those from members of the prosecution – should be gathered during the legislative process. There will be no disagreements over the overriding cause – reforms for the people. Still, I ask you to engage in discussions on specific measures to achieve this in an orderly and responsible manner while considering how to make the already implemented reforms take root firmly.
The Ministry of Justice and Ministry of the Interior and Safety take responsibility for public safety. I urge you to work to make our country safe from crimes and disasters. In line with our country’s development and the diversification of the people’s lives, the scope of safety has broadened, and the people’s sensitivity to safety issues has increased. Therefore, there are now many aspects that can only be noticed if we depart from past practices.
In particular, domestic child abuse is hard to detect unless we pay special attention. We must dispel the perception that it is a family problem. We have to look at the issue at the eye-level of children. Since a special task force has been established to guarantee comprehensive children’s rights, ranging from identifying those abused to protecting them, I hope that we can give people the confidence that the country is doing all it can to protect them.
A law to penalize stalkers has been enacted in response to ever more diversifying types and methods of sex crimes, and punishment for digital sex crimes has been strengthened. I ask you to actively respond to new types of crimes. As climate change accelerates, reinforcing the disaster response system has also become an urgent task. I urge you to do everything possible to upgrade the disaster response system by, among other things, establishing forecasting, warning and control systems based on artificial intelligence, big data and the Internet of Things.
Both ministries have a lot of work to do to restore people’s livelihoods. I urge you to actively seek measures to protect microbusiness owners during a crisis by allowing tenants the right to terminate leases when closing a business is unavoidable due to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the same time, I also ask you to facilitate the right to request adjustments in commercial rents depending on how the pandemic has altered the situation. I’d like the Ministry of Justice to actively consult with relevant ministries and agencies as well as the National Assembly. I’d also like the Ministry of the Interior and Safety to devise and implement various measures by working together with local governments, including the prompt issuance of locally used gift certificates and the suspension of local tax collection.
To get closer to the people, we must continue to innovate. The Ministry of the Interior and Safety’s role is crucial as it is in charge of government innovation. I ask the Ministry to help make people’s daily lives more convenient through the use of digital technology, including artificial intelligence, IoT and the opening of public data, and make clear differences in local autonomy and decentralization as well as balanced national development.
Last year, the Local Autonomy Act was revised for the first time in 32 years in a way that greatly expands the participation of residents and the authority of local councils. I ask you to usher in the era of local autonomy and decentralization 2.0 to the fullest in this meaningful year that marks the 30th anniversary of the revival of local autonomy. I also would like you to strengthen cooperation with related ministries and agencies to speed up implementation of the Regionally Balanced New Deal. You have put in hard work to thoroughly prepare today’s briefings. I ask you to properly implement the plans as well.