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Rival parties argue over body search on opposition floor leader

People Power Party Floor Leader Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
People Power Party Floor Leader Joo Ho-young (Yonhap)
Rival parties on Thursday argued over a body search on the People Power Party Floor Leader Joo Ho-young by a member of the Presidential Security Service against his will, Wednesday.

When Joo arrived at the office of the National Assembly speaker on Wednesday morning to meet with President Moon Jae-in before his parliamentary speech on the state budget, a PSS official told Joo that he had to be searched.

“I told him I am the opposition PPP’s floor leader, but (the PSS official) said he still has to search me,” Joo said.

“He asked me what was in my pocket, and when I answered ‘just my phone,’ he searched me front and back. When I asked him if they have searched an opposition floor leader like this before, he said ‘yes.’”

Joo refused to enter after being searched, and turned back.

“This administration does things unilaterally and keeps a distance from the people, but I never knew they would search an opposition floor leader,” Joo said.

“It is absurd that they blocked (my) access when the president came to the National Assembly to listen to the lawmakers. It is also preposterous that they saw an opposition floor leader as someone subject to a search.”

The Democratic Party of Korea’s Floor Leader Kim Tae-nyeon’s chief secretary said on Wednesday that Kim also went through an identification procedure and was checked for “a pass.”

The People Power Party said, however, that Joo told the PSS his name and said he was the floor leader, like Kim, but the PSS demanded a body search on only Joo.

People Power Party floor spokesperson Bae Hyun-jin said in a message to reporters Wednesday afternoon that the body search on Joo was not captured on security cameras as it took place in a blind spot, and that he was never given such a pass that the Democratic Party mentioned.

“It had been shared that customarily, (Joo) is not subject to the identification procedure,” Bae said.

“It is deeply regrettable that the security protocol for the president and party leaders was applied only to the opposition leader without prior notice.”

Other members of the People Power Party also strongly protested.

“Such a thing never happened before,” said Rep. Chung Jin-suk, who had served as the National Assembly secretary-general before.

“When the president comes to the National Assembly, he has a short meeting over tea with the speaker and party leaders. Never had any of them been searched or stopped for this. Not even during (former) President Chun Doo-hwan’s time. This is a very unusual case. We should look into any hidden intentions behind this.”

People Power Party floor spokesperson Choi Hyung-doo also said in a commentary that “searching the body of an opposition leader without permission at the National Assembly is a blatant insult to the parliament. Is this their answer to the 10 questions Joo asked (the president)?”

There has never been a president that blocked an opposition leader with his security service, Choi added.

The presidential office also issued a statement Wednesday afternoon saying the body search on Joo was based on PSS guidelines, and that the PSS chief “expressed regret that the security official on site was not flexible.”

National Assembly Speaker Park Byeong-seug also apologized to Joo, according to the People Power Party floor leader, as the body search took place inside the parliament.

“Speaker Park confirmed that members of the ruling bloc did not go through body searches. Speaker Park said he requested the chief presidential secretary to find out how it happened, and if there is anything they should be accountable for, they will be held accountable,” Joo said.

By Kim So-hyun (