The conflict between the ruling Saenuri Party and the main opposition Democratic Party appears likely to intensify with the parliamentary probe into the National Intelligence Service drawing to a close without clear conclusions.
The probe has been underway since early July to shed light on allegations that the spy agency attempted to influence last year’s presidential election, but much of the time was exhausted by accusations, walkouts and bickering over who would be called to testify.
Even the witnesses the parties managed to question provided contrasting testimonies that only served to shore up the allegations and claims supported by each party.
The DP, which has taken the witness accounts and claims as to be evidence of systematic attempts to influence the election, has gone back to calling for Saenuri Party’s Rep. Kim Moo-sung and Korean Ambassador to China Kwon Young-se to testify.
“Yesterday’s hearing served to verify that the NIS, police and the Saenuri Party are trying to hide the truth,” DP spokesman Park Yong-jin said Tuesday. He added that ruling party lawmakers appeared to have no interest in finding the truth, and that they turned the proceedings into a grilling of the witness giving unfavorable testimonies.
On Monday, 26 witnesses including police officers, current and former NIS officials including Kwon Eun-hee and the NIS agent identified as Kim who was first singled out in connection to the allegations, took to the stand.
Kwon, who led the initial police investigation, claimed that former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan intervened to influence the outcome of the presidential election. For her part, the NIS agent denied that her actions were aimed at influencing the election.
“It has again been proven that Kim Moo-sung and Kwon Young-se must be chosen as witnesses, without which the probe can only end with a big hole,” Park said.
Although DP leaders have yet to make their position clear, some in the party are calling for a special counsel investigation, claiming that the parliamentary probe has been insufficient.
The Saenuri Party, however, appears satisfied with the developments and ready to turn up the pressure on the DP to return to the parliament.
“Nothing the opposition party has claimed has been proven. It is now clear that nothing will be gained by dragging out the issue with one-sided claims and speculations,” Saenuri Party floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan said. He added that the DP should not bring up the issue of launching a special counsel investigation into the issue, saying that such a move would be tantamount to admitting that the opposition wants to “rule above the law.”
“What’s more, it would be revealing (the DP’s) motive of overturning the result of the presidential election for all to see.”
Choi also criticized DP’s street campaign, saying that the main opposition was “trapped in the past.” The Saenuri Party floor leader, a key figure of the ruling party’s pro-Park Geun-hye faction, also warned that his party will be forced to open the plenary session of the National Assembly by itself if the DP refuses to normalize parliamentary operations.
Since Aug. 1, the DP has been conducting a campaign to “revive democracy” out of a tent set up in central Seoul in an attempt to increase the pressure on the ruling party and the government.
As for the DP, it will likely be trapped between the Saenuri Party, which holds more than half of the 300 parliamentary seats, and criticism for lacking drive and clear leadership.
DP chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil has already received fire for launching the street campaign, which the Saenuri Party sees as a maneuver cooked up by the hard-liners of the party.
By Choi He-suk (email@example.com