Commotion among the political parties surged Friday as the probe into leftist lawmaker Lee Seok-ki picked up pace, leaving them with the looming task of deciding on whether to approve his detainment on suspicion of plotting a revolt.
The parties are expected to vote on the prosecution-filed motion to detain Lee for his arrest in their regular session sometime next month depending on the progress of the investigation.
To arrest or detain an incumbent lawmaker, the court must ask the Ministry of Justice to submit a motion to the National Assembly for consent, in accordance with the National Assembly Act, which grants lawmakers’ immunity during a session. Once the motion is submitted, it must be voted at the regular session in 24-72 hours.
The Assembly, however, is currently gridlocked over the NIS reform, and prospects for normal operation of the regular session remain dim.
While the Saenuri Party is determined to cooperate, the main opposition Democratic Party remained wary of its position as it tried to keep afloat its fight against the NIS’ political interference.
“If the motion to arrest Rep. Lee is handed to the National Assembly, we must definitely approve it,” said Saenuri floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan.
“This is not a matter of ruling party versus opposition party,” he said, adding, “If the accusations so far are true, those including Lee that are under investigation have put the country’s safety in danger.”
The party also criticized the DP for having aligned with the UPP in last year’s general elections. The UPP earned 13 seats in the race, becoming the third-largest parliamentary bloc.
“The DP joined hands with the anti-state organization for the sake of power. ... The party should declare it will not align with the UPP in the upcoming local election (in October),” said Rep. Ha Tae-keung. The North Korea human rights activist-turned-lawmaker was once a member of the National Liberation group that forms the UPP’s mainstream faction.
The main opposition Democratic Party was seen further distancing itself from the radical liberals, vowing to separate its ongoing battle for NIS reform with the revolt conspiracy probe.
“The DP will separately deal with the NIS’ illegal election interference case and the recent revolt conspiracy case,” said DP chairman Kim Han-gil.
DP spokesman Rep. Park Yong-jin said in a radio interview, “If the arrest warrant issued by the court specified with the suspicions is delivered, it is rightful to conduct the process according to the regulations including the Assembly Act.”
The UPP, meanwhile, upped its protest against the ongoing probe, accusing the NIS of fabricating the leaked transcript of the conversation that took place in May during the “revolutionary organization” meeting within the controversial East Gyeonggi Coalition accused of being pursuant to North Korea.
The party said any request to arrest Lee must be voted down.
“We cannot but lament the fictitious claims,” said UPP Rep. Kim Jae-yeon in a radio interview. Kim, along with Lee, have been considered representative UPP members and were subject to widespread scrutiny for being pro-North last year upon their alleged vote rigging in the April general elections.
UPP spokesman Hong Sung-kyu said Lee has not made any comments conformed to rebellion conspiracy and vowed to take legal measures against the NIS and some of the media for publishing facts about a suspected crime.
The UPP planned to participate in the candlelight vigil for NIS reform being held in Busan to step up their protest.
By Lee Joo-hee (email@example.com