Assembly rejects detention of Chung charged with bribery, but approves arrest of opposition member
The Saenuri Party’s floor leadership offered to resign en masse Wednesday, after the National Assembly vetoed an arrest motion for the ruling party’s Rep. Chung Doo-un who was implicated in a bribery scandal.
The Assembly earlier voted down the request by the prosecution to arrest Chung, who is suspected of colluding with former Saenuri Party lawmaker and President Lee Myung-bak’s older brother Lee Sang-deuk in receiving bribes from savings bank executives in 2007.
“I offer a sincere apology for having failed to show the renewed image of the National Assembly that the citizens long to see,” its floor leader Lee Hahn-koo said at a press conference as chief policymaker Chin Young stood solemnly by him.
The floor leadership consists of 17 officials including the policy chief, floor spokesman and deputy floor leaders.
Of the 271 lawmakers, 156 opposed the motion, while 74 approved and 31 abstained. Another 10 votes were counted as invalid.
The lawmakers, however, approved an arrest motion for independent Rep. Park Joo-sun, sentenced with a two-year jail term, with 148 of the 271 attending lawmakers voting in consent. Park, a former Democratic United Party member, was convicted last month for illegal campaigning during the April general elections.
The prompt resignations came just an hour after the anonymous votes were cast and counted, and minutes after the DUP lambasted the rival party for failing to have the arrest warrant approved.
The DUP also criticized their resignation as a “political show.”
“The speedy decision to resign also appears to have been part of their scenario. Their resignation en masse at a time where there are imminent issues to deal with will paralyze the National Assembly’s operation,” said DUP floor spokesperson Lee Un-ju.
The Saenuri Party will be electing the new floor leader within seven days according to party regulations.
The heated political face-off between the rival parties is expected to escalate as they attempt to gain an upper hand in winning public support in the lead up to the December presidential election on the platform of political reform.
Upon the commencement of the 19th parliament in May, major parties vowed to give up their privileges such as in retirement pension and the immunity from detention.
Lee Hahn-koo had also repeatedly emphasized the consent to Chung’s detainment was “a way to go.”
The discussion, however, had slowed due to concerns that a complete relinquishment of the immunity privilege may risk unfair probing of incumbent lawmakers.
At present, the Saenuri Party holds 149 seats in the Assembly, while the DUP has 127, the Unified Progressive Party 13, the Advanced Unification Party five, and independents six.
Under the National Assembly Act, an arrest of incumbent lawmakers during a working session must receive approval from a majority of lawmakers.
The Central Investigation Bureau of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office last week sought to detain Chung on charges of colluding with defamed former Saenuri lawmaker and President Lee’s older brother Lee Sang-deuk in a bribery case in 2007. The expanding probe has raised speculation that the bribes may have been used in President Lee’s presidential campaign.
Following the parliament decision, the prosecutors are expected to continue probing Chung without an arrest.
Chung had lambasted the prosecution’s move as being premature and politically charged, and indicated it was an attempt to water down the implication of Lee Sang-deuk, who was arrested Tuesday night.
“It is an attempt to kill my political career,” Chung said before the vote took place.
Chung is suspected of having been present at the scene where Lee received around 300 million won ($263,000)from a savings bank chief, and loading the bag of money into his car.
The parliament decision came a day after Lee Sang-deuk was arrested on charges of having received up to 600 million won in kickbacks from Solomon Savings Bank chief Lim Suk and Mirae Savings Bank Chairman Kim Chan-kyung between 2007 and last year. He became the first sibling of an incumbent president to be put behind bars.
Lee is also suspected of having received 150 million won from Kolon Group, which he once chaired before entering politics.
The court said Lee was being placed under arrest as there was a risk of evidence destruction considering his status and political influence.
To reporters’ questions on what he wished to tell his brother, Lee Sang-deuk simply said, “I am sorry.”
While Cheong Wa Dae remained mute about the overnight arrest, President Lee canceled his official schedule for Wednesday.
The lawmakers’ immunity from arrest is specified in the Constitution.
Since the establishment of the Constitution, a total of 45 motions for arrest on lawmakers were submitted but only nine were approved.
The last approval for an arrest of an incumbent lawmaker was made in September 2010 of then Democratic Party member Kang Seong-jong for embezzlement.
By Lee Joo-hee (firstname.lastname@example.org)