Officials of South Korea’s legislative and executive branches as well as Cheong Wa Dae on Monday agreed on the need to prevent abuse of power by police, who will be given greater authority under a political reform bill being fast-tracked through the National Assembly.
To increase checks and balances, the officials agreed to establish a head office to separate police tasked with investigative assignments from general police. They also talked about amendments to punish police intelligence officers that misuse the information they gather.
“Some have raised concerns over police assuming a greater scope of authority, but it is time to proactively proceed with on-site reform for police to regain public trust,” said Rep. Cho Jung-sik, policy chief of the ruling Democratic Party.
Cho said they had agreed to set up a local autonomous police system, which would redistribute police power to provide more regional independence and offer safety measures tailored to each region.
Regarding concerns surrounding intelligence, Cho Jung-sik said “We will clarify the range of activity of intelligence officers by law, to ban their involvement in politics and root out illegal inspection.”
Concerns have grown in the past few days over the strengthened police powers that a fast-tracked political reform bill would introduce. This follows the arrest of former Police Chief Kang Shin-myung, who faces allegations of abusing his power in the 2016 general election to collect information for pro-Park candidates using police intelligence.
In response to measures discussed, National Police Commissioner Min Gap-ryong acknowledged that “legislation on police reform will serve as an irreversible foundation for reform” and emphasized “it is the public’s request to divide monopolized authority to eradicate violation of rules and advantages.”
National Police Commissioner Min Gap-ryong (first left) and Senior Presidential Secretary on civil affairs Cho Kuk (third left) discuss with related officials on police reform measures at the National Assembly on Monday. (Yonhap)
Highlighting efforts to improve transparency Min said the police was the first agency to launch a committee on reform, which is responsible for gathering diverse opinions on the police to bring about substantial changes.
According to Min, a human rights counseling office has been set up at police stations, in reference to the National Human Rights Commission.
Taking part in the discussion, Cho Kuk, senior presidential secretary on civil affairs, said a legal revision was needed to prevent abuse of power among intelligence police.
“A former national police commissioner has been arrested due to misuse of the intelligence police. To prevent such illegal activity, the law needs to be revised,” Cho Kuk said, adding the Moon Jae-in administration has not and will not use police intelligence to its advantage.
Cho Kuk added that police reform measures not included in the fast-tracked bill -- such as the local autonomous police system and the setup of a head office to separate investigative police from general police -- should be dealt with in a timely manner.
By Kim Bo-gyung (email@example.com