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Parliament's annual audit to center on N. Korea, justice minister


Lawmakers will hold the parliament‘s annual inspection of state affairs this week with North Korea’s recent killing of a South Korean civil servant and a row over special treatment for the justice minister’s son expected to be key agenda items for the three weeks of hearings.

The parliamentary audit will start Wednesday and runs until Oct. 26, covering more than 640 government organizations.

The Defense Committee, which will audit the Ministry of National Defense and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, is likely to come under the spotlight, among others, due to controversies involving North Korea and military-related matters.

The main opposition People Power Party requested to summon 10 people, including Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and her son, identified by the surname Seo, over alleged special favors received by the 27-year-old during his military service in 2017.

Prosecutors dropped charges against Choo and Seo on Sept. 28, citing that a deceptive scheme or external pressure couldn’t be confirmed to have been exercised for Seo to take extra vacation days without prior approval due to the influence of his mother.

But the opposition party has been stressing the need to put the justice minister under scrutiny despite the decision by the state prosecution.

Joo Ho-young, floor leader of the main opposition People Power Party, called for an independent special prosecutor team to get down to the bottom of the speculations.

“The public will be convinced when an independent prosecutor team makes a conclusion on the case as the Justice Ministry and prosecutors’ office can be shackled by Choo,” Joo said.

The ruling Democratic Party of Korea has refused to call in witnesses that its rival party demanded to talk to, criticizing the move as bringing audit sessions into the arena of political discourse.

The differing views on the selection of witnesses has led the two sides to struggle to set a date for the committee‘s hearing.

The two parties are also expected to bicker with each other over a 47-year-old official in charge of overseeing fishing activities who was shot dead and had his body burned by North Korean troops on Sept. 22.

Following rare apologies made by North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, the ruling party has shifted its focus to fact-finding, while the opposition denounced the government for an insufficient response and having weak intelligence-gathering capabilities.

“The incident showed the administration’s ambivalent attitude toward the life of the people and crisis management abilities. They also showed a submissive attitude in inter-Korean relations,” Joo said.

On Monday, ruling party chief Lee Nak-yon said that he expected the opposition to be on a fierce offensive during the parliament‘s annual inspection sessions.

“The government should correct lawmakers’ false accusations with fortitude. If the government made errors, it should fix them and apologize,” Lee said.

By Park Han-na (