The National Assembly passed a bill Thursday allowing the arrest of main opposition Democratic Party lawmaker Kang Sung-jong, who allegedly embezzled public school funds worth 7.8 billion won (6.6 million U.S. dollars). The bill is the first of its kind passed since 1995, when one was filed for Democratic Party lawmaker Park Eun-tae on suspicion of bribe taking. The party opposed the bills passage by stressing the non-imprisonment principle in the investigation into Kang, but the National Assembly could simply not tolerate a corrupt legislator.
The Democratic Party said Thursday, The Grand National Party has broken trust by putting the bill to a vote without reaching an agreement on the personal issue of our colleague. It agreed to postpone dealing with the bill for one day but broke its promise. The ruling party denies this, however. Even if such an agreement existed, it is inappropriate for the main opposition party, which criticized illegality, corruption and immorality at the confirmation hearings for the prime minister and Cabinet minister-designates a few days ago, to protect its lawmakers suspected of corruption.
The ruling party is also responsible for abetting because it has overlooked the way its rival deals with its corrupt lawmakers in the interest of forming a good bilateral relationship. The time-honored practices of embracing corrupt lawmakers or backroom dealing weaken the rule of law, and this must be rooted out with the passage of the bill on Kangs arrest.
The ruling party was forced by public opinion to hold a general meeting of lawmakers to vote on expelling Kang Yong-seok, who allegedly made sexually inappropriate comments against women. Had this move been delayed longer, the ruling party would have been perceived as a sexual harassment party. It announced stringent measures July 20 against Kang Yong-seok, including his expulsion from the party, before the July 28 by-elections but delayed the voting twice and waited to see public opinion. Using the latest case as an opportunity, politicians should show their commitment to dramatically enhancing their morality to meet the peoples expectations.
On the lawsuit filed Thursday by Kang Yong-seok against the reporter who broke the story on his derogatory comments, prosecutors say the lawmaker made a false accusation. Politicians try to discourage media critical of them by filing a lawsuit first when they see news articles negative toward them. This is similar to the case of former Democratic Party lawmaker Han Myeong-sook. What is needed is the elimination of damning news reports through lawsuits filed by politicians, who are supposed to be supervised by the people and the media.