Nov. 24 (UPI) -- South Korea's justice minister has suspended Seoul's top prosecutor in a surprise move, after weeks of allegations about breach of law and misconduct.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae met with reporters at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Seoul High Prosecutors' Office to make the unexpected announcement. Choo charged Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl with using illegal methods to investigate top cases and violating "political neutrality" while in office, News 1 and JoongAng Daily reported.
"The Ministry of Justice has recently conducted an internal probe into various charges of misconduct on the part of the prosecutor general," Choo said. "Following the investigation we have confirmed serious and weighty charges of misconduct against the prosecutor."
Yoon, whose office indicted former Justice Minister Cho Kuk on charges of fraud and graft in 2019, is being charged with "making inappropriate contact with the media" during investigations, using illegal methods to probe Cho, and "seriously damaging the office of prosecutor general" by not maintaining political neutrality, Choo said.
Yoon has responded to the allegations and has pledged to take legal action, according to JoongAng Daily.
"I have done nothing shameful. I have done my best for the political neutrality of the prosecution," Yoon said.
South Korea's ruling Democratic Party has frequently criticized the prosecution, and Yoon's aides and family members have been under probe since the prosecution of Cho, a key member of President Moon Jae-in's Blue House.
On Tuesday the presidential office said Moon has received word of Choo's decision. The president has "no comments" on the issue, Blue House spokesman Kang Min-seok said, according to MoneyToday.
Yoon's name was mentioned in recent South Korean reports that suggested the top prosecutor might be interested in running for president in 2022, as a member of the conservative political opposition.
Yoon's family is under public scrutiny amid the dispute with the Moon administration. Local television network SBS reported Tuesday Yoon's mother-in-law is being charged with illegally receiving state subsidies for a nursing home under her operation, the report says.