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Parties pounce on savings banks scandal

Junior pro-Lee Myung-bak lawmakers of the ruling Grand National Party submitted on Wednesday a bill to appoint an independent counsel to investigate Busan Mutual Savings Bank’s irregularities, party officials said.

Other savings banks, which were declared near bankrupt and suspended earlier this year along with the Busan bank, are also to be dealt with by the independent counsel, according to the bill.

“The parliamentary investigation does not involve criminal punishment and is thus insufficient in resolving the given charges,” said Rep. Chang Je-won, who led the bill submission.

“Especially amid the ongoing political arguments between the parties, we felt the need to take the matter onto a legal level.”

GNP floor leader Hwang Woo-yea also agreed that the independent counsel may be a valid way to solve the complex savings banks case, though it may clash with the state investigation to a certain extent, officials said.

Earlier, the GNP and the main opposition Democratic Party agreed to launch a parliamentary probe into the case but showed differences over details.

The GNP emphasized that the savings banks investigation should be taken over by an objective third party in order to eliminate all doubts.

The DP, on the other hand, tried to blame the case on close aides to Lee and vowed to go on the offensive against the administration and on the ruling party.

“The savings banks scandal is a typical case of corruption which should be eradicated once and for all,” said DP chairman Sohn Hak-kyu in the party’s Supreme Council meeting.

The DP also vowed to prove that core officials of the Lee government were involved in the corruption charges and to call several Cheong Wa Dae officials as witnesses to the case.

Also, the inter-party battle may pick up further this month as the names of several lawmakers from both parties have recently been mentioned in connection with the bribery scandal.

Cheong Wa Dae earlier suggested that a DP official attempted to bribe its officials in a bid to prevent the liquidation of Bohae Savings Bank.

Amid the warmup steps over the case, the National Assembly opened its general session at 2 p.m. to discuss pending issues and select new chairpersons for its parliamentary committees.

It is then to kick off a four-day interpellation from Thursday, officials said. 

By Bae Hyun-jung (tellme@heraldcorp.com)
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