SEOUL, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- A rare, massive pro-government rally was held here over the weekend, demanding a thorough reform of the prosecution office that has been viewed as an agency of excessive power.
Hundreds of thousands of people packed the main boulevards in southern Seoul around the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office building. According to the organizers' estimate, about three million people voluntarily poured onto the streets on Saturday after some two million participated a week earlier.
Demonstrators, ranging from grey-haired elders to parents with children, chanted slogans "(We) love Moon Jae-in," "Protect Cho Kuk," and "Reform the prosecution office." Among them were people from towns and cities across the country, including Daegu and Busan cities seen as a political home turf for the conservative parties, and even South Koreans living overseas.
Cho Kuk is a former reform-minded law professor, who South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed as a justice minister about two months earlier. Before the ministership, Cho had served as the first senior presidential secretary for civil affairs under the Moon government.
The rallies in support of Cho were caused by prosecutors' investigation into the wrongdoing allegations of Cho and his family, including the manipulation of an award issued to Cho's daughter by a university where Cho's wife works as a professor and the involvement of Cho's wife in the illegal management of a private-equity fund.
The investigation was launched before opening a parliamentary confirmation hearing to see whether the presidential appointee is qualified for the ministership. It mobilized tens of special prosecutors specializing in the power-related corruption, and raided more than 70 locations to seize evidence.
While the probe was underway, hundreds of thousands of unconfirmed media reports poured out citing unidentified sources from the prosecution office. It led demonstrators to raise high the signs that read "Reform the prosecution. Reform the media."
During the 11-hour raid of Cho's house, investigators had lunch inside the house, enraging people over the prosecutors excessively exerting an investigative authority. It was rare to storm a private home for about 11 hours.
The expanded investigations into Cho's wife, daughter, son and other relatives were seen by Moon supporters as a protest against Moon's push for the prosecution reform and his appointment of the justice minister who was tasked with leading the reform.
It was rare to see hundreds of thousands of people voluntarily take to the streets for the pro-government rally, where people chanted slogans for protecting the sitting president and the justice minister against prosecutors.
The prosecution reform was one of Moon's major campaign pledges as prosecutors have long been seen as having an excessive authority, including an exclusive authority to indict criminal suspects and control police investigations.
Under the parliamentary reform bill pending at the National Assembly, the Moon government pushed to divide the exclusive authority into two, or an authority to indict given to prosecutors and an authority to investigate given to police.
The government also sought to establish an independent investigative body that can investigate the corruption of prosecutors as well as judges and high-level police officers, instead of being investigated and indicted by fellow prosecutors.