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No sanctuary for corrupted lawmakers

Posted August. 22, 2014 00:15,   


Five ruling and opposition lawmakers accused of graft played weird hide-and-seek with the prosecution on Wednesday. Upon the court notification to attend a hearing to review the legality of their arrest, the five lawmakers didn’t announce any intention of nonappearance nor showed any response. Only when the prosecution started to find their whereabouts to exercise arrest warrants, Rep. Shin Hak-yong from the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) revealed his intention to attend belatedly in the morning while other lawmakers kept silence. In the afternoon, Reps. Shin Gye-ryun and Kim Jae-yun from the NPAD said they would appear to be questioned. Following that, ruling Saenuri Party lawmakers Park Sang-eun and Cho Hyun-yong announced their appearances. Against this backdrop, the NPAD submitted a request to demand an extra session of the National Assembly in August, to be started 48 hours later, only 10 minutes before the end of the extra session in July.

The NPAD argued that it was to pass the Sewol ferry special bill. But another extra session to be started only 48 hours later is enough to be suspected as the "bullet-proof session" for the accused lawmakers. On Wednesday morning, the lawmakers over graft allegations seemed to be relieved as they could stay behind the bullet-proof session if passing just one more day. Finally, all five lawmakers appeared to the court due to strong public criticism. The NAPD lawmakers got most of the criticism but Saenuri lawmaker Cho Hyun-yong didn’t look good either, as he belatedly agreed to appear after hearing the news of other lawmakers’ attendance. Originally, the court’s hearing was scheduled to start from 9:30 a.m. Thursday sequentially, but it had to begin at 2 p.m. as lawmakers attended belatedly.

The arrest warrants were effective until the midnight. If they missed the time, an extra session of National Assembly would start and the lawmakers would be exempted from arrest without the consent of the Assembly. The warrant-issuing judge couldn’t extend the date of hearing and had to review the legality of their arrests in a hurried manner. The lawmakers’ appearance would be better than nonappearance, but they cannot escape from the criticism over belated attendance.

There must be no sanctuary for the corrupted lawmakers. Constitution states the privilege of lawmakers to be exempted from arrest during a National Assembly session. However, the meaning of this special right has faded since democratization was established in Korea. There is no immunity from arrest in other advanced nations. Many constitutional scholars say that the privilege of exemption from arrest is no longer needed even in Korea. Considering such backgrounds, the ruling and opposition parties made a pledge to give up this privilege during the presidential election and general election. In this regard, it is shameful for the ruling and opposition party lawmakers to try to hide under the bullet-proof session without attending the hearing. Strict questioning over allegations and law enforcement is critically required.