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UNDP Introduces Bill to Impeach Prosecutors

Posted December. 12, 2007 03:03,   


The United New Democratic Party (UNDP) plans to introduce a bill today to impeach public prosecutors who took part in the BBK scandal probe. To block its passage, Grand National Party (GNP) members sealed off, through a sit-in, the podium of the Speaker of the House yesterday, sparking a heated partisan standoff between the two parties as a result.

GNP: “Over Our Dead Body!” –

30 GNP members led by GNP Secretary General Lee Bang-ho waged a sit-in for about two hours, blocking passage to the speaker’s podium to prevent any possible passage of the impeachment bill against the three prosecutors.

Prior to the sit-in, GNP floor leader Ahn Sang-soo encouraged his party representatives, saying, “To impeach a public servant, requirements should be met in advance. The pending bill does not satisfy the elements of an impeachment bill.” He added, “The United Democrats act on partisan motivations and for their own interests. The impeachment bill and the independent counsel bill against Mr. Lee [Myung-bak] are only for disparaging the prosecution and for taking the initiative in the upcoming [presidential and general] election.”

GNP spokeswoman Na Kyung-won asserted, “[UNDP candidate] Chung publicly promised to fire the prosecutors, alleging they catered to political pressure. But our citizens will fire the arrogant party and its candidate.”

UNDP: Push for Vote –

When the opposing two parties failed to iron out their differences concerning the impeachment bill, Speaker Lim Chae-jung told representatives of the parties that he would convene a session this afternoon. The UNDP also plans to report the impeachment bill in the general session today and to put it up for a vote by Saturday.

Should the bill be passed, the prosecutors named in bill will be put on administrative leave until the Constitutional Court of Korea renders a final ruling. If the court sides with the petitioning party, the prosecutors will have to leave office.

To pass an impeachment bill, the majority of all Parliament members have to agree to it within 72 hours of the first floor debate. The UNDP currently has 141 parliamentary seats. It is therefore courting the Democratic Labor Party, which holds nine seats, and the Democratic Party, which has seven seats, to satisfy the quorum requirements for bill passage.

If those two parties side with the UNDP, that will give bill supporters 157 votes, which meets quorum requirements as the total number of seats is 299. At least for now, however, the two parties are hesitant to join the UNDP. The Democratic Party says it is absurd to impeach prosecutors without evidence of illegal activities. Likewise, the labor party does not want to support the politically motivated initiatives of another party.

UNDP floor leader Kim Hyo-seok condemned GNP’s sit-in gangster-type activity, and the party’s spokeswoman criticized the government, saying, “We know how the current government disrespects the demands of our citizens. Now it has demonstrated its arrogance again. President Roh and his administration officials should apologize to the public for their ignorance and arrogance.” Prior to the statement, President Roh brushed away the UNDP’s demand for an inspection and review of the investigation results.

Legal Community: Abuse of Power by Lawmakers –

The vast majority of lawyers and scholars, including public prosecutors, see the impeachment bill as an abuse of power and an expression partisan intent based on no more than hearsay. One prosecutor commented, “This matter does not deserve any debate at all. That is why only Chief Prosecutor Kim [Hong-il] commented on the bill. If all of [the prosecutors] respond to it, our citizens will see us as deplorable politicians.”

A judge also reiterated the criticism, saying, “UDNP lawmakers did not make any efforts to verify facts. They just brought up their bill. It is outrageous abuse. In ancient monarchist times, people impeached public servants based on rumors. I don’t see any difference in this case.”

Hwang Byeong-dong, a former senior prosecutor turned law professor at Hongik University, decried the bill as well, saying, “Our system has various appeal vehicles. The UNDP members did not even use them. Should our prosecutors be impeached, the whole world will mock our system.”

Kyungseung University politics professor Kwon Yong-lip explained, “When we impeach a public servant, it has to be done to better serve the public, not to better serve partisan interests.”

In the meanwhile, Justice Minister Chung Soung-jin commented on the political turmoil surrounding the DA’s investigation results of the BBK scandal and argued, “Let’s see what’s coming up during the trial. If defendant Chris Kim makes new allegations, we will think about them at that time. Likewise, if new facts come out against GNP candidate Lee [Myung-bak] during the proceedings, we will take appropriate actions.”

Minister Chung told reporters before attending a cabinet meeting held at Cheong Wa Dae, “I trust the integrity of the DA’s office and its investigation. The case is pending now. Thus, we have to wait and see. We have to respect our justice system.”