Also passes media rep bill, rejects Constitutional Court justice nomination
The National Assembly on Thursday passed a bill calling for a special counsel to probe allegations that high-ranking ruling party officials were involved in a hacking scandal during the October by-elections.
It also passed the long-disputed broadcasting advertisement brokerage bill, referred to as the media rep bill.
The nomination of new Constitutional Court justice Cho Yong-whan, however, was voted down.
The individual counsel law, initiated by the opposition members and approved by 183 among 201 lawmakers present, aims to find out whether ruling party members or presidential officials were involved in the cyber attack scandal.
With the passage of the bill, President Lee Myung-bak is to name a leading special counsel and three assistants who will lead the investigation within 60 days from kick-off. The team may extend the period by 30 days under special circumstances.
Prosecutors last month concluded that a former aide to former ruling party member Rep. Choi Gu-sik colluded with a former secretary to parliamentary speaker Park Hee-tae to lead a distributed denial of service, or DDoS, attack on the National Election Commission webpage. The attack was allegedly to discourage voters from turning out at polling stations. Low turnout was regarded as favorable for the ruling party’s candidate for Seoul mayor.
The page was thus paralyzed for two hours on the day of the by-election vote.
Investigators, however, said that no other lawmakers were found to be responsible for the hacking, after which left-wing members claimed that an independent counsel should be introduced to probe the case.
The parliament also passed the media rep revision bill, with 150 lawmakers approving, 61 disapproving and 12 abstaining.
The bill, submitted and revised by the ruling Saenuri Party, involves allocating a single advertising broker for public broadcasters such as KBC, MBC and EBS, and multiple representatives for private stations.
It also allows a private broadcaster to own up to 40 percent of shares in a media rep.
Several new general programming cable channels, which began to air programs in December, last year, will be excluded from the regulations for three years from the day they were given business permission.
The media rep issue has been pending at the National Assembly for over three years since the Constitutional Court ruled in 2008 that the state-run Korea Broadcast Advertising Corporation’s advertisement monopoly was unconstitutional.
While the two bills were passed, the nomination of new Constitutional Court justice Cho Yong-whan was rejected in a secret vote with 115 approvals, 128 disapprovals and 8 abstentions.
This was the first case of rejection since the top court was established in 1988, according to officials.
Leading parties have been in conflict over the Cho’s qualifications, especially concerning his comments on the sinking of the naval corvette Cheonan.
“I cannot say I am convinced of the North Korean involvement in the attack, though I believe in the government’s statement,” he said earlier.
The ruling Saenuri Party had vowed to veto Cho’s nomination after his public hearing last June.
By Bae Hyun-jung (firstname.lastname@example.org