The prosecution on Thursday filed charges against 28 lawmakers from rival parties and main opposition Liberty Korea Party chief Hwang Kyo-ahn, in connection with a mass brawl that broke out inside the National Assembly in April 2019 over a set of reform bills.
The Seoul Nambu District Prosecutors’ Office indicted, without physical detention, Hwang and 23 lawmakers from the Liberty Korea Party and five from the ruling Democratic Party for obstructing justice, breaching parliamentary law and causing disturbances.
Several big wigs were included, such as the Liberty Korea Party’s former Floor Leader Na Kyung-won, and Democratic Party Reps. Lee Jong-gul and Pyo Chang-won. Eight secretaries and party officials from the two camps were also sent for trial in relation to the violence.
Both parties slammed the prosecution.
“We cannot help but see the indictments as political, given this timing ahead of the general elections,” said Liberty Korea Party floor spokesperson Sung Il-jong. “It is a clear attempt to kill the opposition party by this administration.”
The Democratic Party, for its part, accused the prosecutors for including its lawmakers to appear “fair,” although it says the violence was clearly the Liberty Korea Party’s fault.
“Given the four lawmakers indicted are from the judiciary reform committee, it is obvious that the prosecution is seeking revenge (due to our party’s push for prosecution reform),” said Democratic Party spokesperson Lee Hae-sik.
A fight erupted in the National Assembly on April 25 as lawmakers from the Democratic Party and other minor parties -- the Bareunmirae Party, Party for Democracy and Peace and Justice Party -- tried to fast-track bills on reforming the prosecution and parliamentary election system despite the main opposition bloc’s fierce resistance.
The lawmakers pushed and wrestled with each other as the Liberty Korea Party members attempted to physically block the bills from being submitted at the parliamentary office.
The Democratic Party and Justice Party filed complaints with the prosecution against Liberty Korea Party lawmakers for violating the National Assembly Law, among other violations. In response, the Liberty Korea Party filed complaints against ruling party lawmakers.
The prosecution postponed the indictment for 48 people affiliated with the Liberty Korea Party and 40 with the Democratic Party, and cleared 15 people -- National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang, six from the Bareunmirae Party and eight from the ruling party -- of their charges.
The Liberty Korea Party filed a complaint against Moon on charges of sexual harassment after he touched the face of a female lawmaker from the party during the physical confrontation.
The ruling and the minor parties on Monday passed the disputed bill on setting up an independent body tasked with investigating and indicting high-ranking officials suspected of corruption, one of the key pledges by President Moon to curb the prosecution’s power. Last week the parties passed the other contentious bill that will increase proportional representation seats in the parliament.
The Liberty Korea Party has opposed both bills, which had officially been fast-tracked in April, arguing the new election system is unconstitutional and the investigative body could be exploited by the president.
Those found guilty of interrupting the parliamentary proceedings face up to five years in prison or up to 10 million won ($8,650) fine. Lawmakers who are imposed a fine of more than 5 million won are deprived of rights to run for election.
By Ock Hyun-ju (firstname.lastname@example.org