Developments stemming from the 2012 presidential election took center stage in the interpellation session on Monday, with the parties clashing over reforming the national spy agency and launching a special counsel investigation.
Following last week’s acquittal of former Seoul police chief Kim Yong-pan, the opposition bloc renewed its calls for a special counsel investigation into related developments. The National Intelligence Service is alleged to have run a smear campaign against main opposition Democratic Party Rep. Moon Jae-in, while Kim is accused of preventing a thorough investigation on the NIS.
The progressives’ call for a special counsel investigation was also met with direct opposition from Prime Minister Chung Hong-won.
“(I) have serious concerns that calling for a special counsel investigation on an issue already judged by the courts is damaging the foundations of the separation of the three powers,” Chung said. He added that disputing the outcome of a trial was tantamount to disregarding the judiciary.
Chung also played down the DP’s decision to seek the dismissal of Justice Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn and Education Minister Seo Nam-soo, the proposals for which were submitted on Monday. The motions must be processed within 72 hours of submission, failing which they are automatically scrapped.
The main opposition accuses Hwang of interfering in the investigations into the NIS and its former chief. The DP also claims that Hwang played a part in removing former Prosecutor General Chae Dong-wook, who resigned amid allegations of having a son with a mistress. As for the motion on Seo, the DP seeks to remove him from office over the controversies surrounding a history textbook.
Meanwhile, the ruling Saenuri Party is downplaying the opposition bloc’s demands for an independent probe, with party chairman Rep. Hwang Woo-yea calling it a ploy in forming an alliance for the June 4 local elections.
The conservative floor leader Rep. Choi Kyung-hwan took a more direct approach, accusing the DP of “opening the second chapter of denying the presidential election (result).”
Choi also attacked independent Rep. Ahn Cheol-soo, accusing him of attempting to ride on the DP’s coattails. At Monday’s meeting of his new politics committee, Ahn said that the ruling on Kim confirmed the need for a special counsel investigation. He also said that the justice minister should bear responsibility for his part in the developments, calling for a related motion to be processed during the February session of the National Assembly.
“Whether (Ahn) is under the illusion that only he is just, and that he is the absolute good, it is regretful that (Ahn’s brand of politics) consists of political wrangling while its banner touts new politics,” Choi said.
Citing DP lawmakers’ comments, Choi said that the main opposition was threatening the public, and again called on the party to apologize to the public.
In a recent interview, DP secretary-general Rep. Noh Woong-rae said that a campaign to remove the current administration could be possible if former NIS chief Won Sei-hoon is also acquitted. Won is on trial for ordering the spy agency’s alleged smear campaign. He has been convicted on a separate charge of corruption.
The DP, for its part, is accusing the government and the ruling party of going against the people, citing surveys that show more than half of the public believes Kim Yong-pan to be guilty of impeding the probe into the NIS.
“The majority of the people will never be able to accept Kim Yong-pan’s acquittal, and (the public opinion) is that a special counsel investigation should be conducted to reveal the truth about allegations regarding the presidential election,” DP chairman Rep. Kim Han-gil said.
“President Park Geun-hye and the Saenuri Party should not be tied up in trying to hide the truth, but open up the issue in front of the public.”
By Choi He-suk (firstname.lastname@example.org)