The Democratic Party of Korea passed the revision bill concerning the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) on Tuesday by holding plenary meetings with the agenda coordination committee at the Legislation and Judiciary Committee of the National Assembly. The revision bill was passed just one day after it was presented to the Legislation and Judiciary Committee as if conducting a military operation. The ruling party will forcefully pass the bill despite the opposition party’s objection at today’s plenary session of the National Assembly. “The bell to moan the end of South Korea’s democracy rang today,” the People Power Party criticized.
The core of the revision bill is to remove the veto right of the opposition party in the candidate nomination committee for the head of the CIO. The clause, which was promised by the ruling party as the minimum safety measure to ensure the neutrality of the CIO during last year’s negotiations on the CIO bill, has now been reversed by the same party. If the CIO bill is passed as it is through a plenary session, a pro-government figure meeting the needs of the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the ruling party is likely to be selected to lead the CIO. Once launched, the CIO can investigate certain cases along with the prosecution and the police, making it the top inspection agency over the two. If the head of such top authority has to please the president who appointed him or her, the legislative intent of the bill to keep active powers in check will be diminished.
Another toxic clause in the bill is also problematic. The qualification of CIO prosecutors was eased from over 10 years of experience as a lawyer to over seven years and their term of office increased to seven years from three years. It is hard to avoid the criticism that the revisions were introduced to recruit a number of pro-government Minbyun lawyers with shorter experience as CIO prosecutors to control the CIO for a longer period.
While the agenda coordination committee’s rules allow discussions for a maximum of 90 days, the ruling party passed the bill in just 90 minutes after the committee’s meeting was held using its majority power. The meeting was kept strictly confidential, which indicates that in-depth deliberation on the bill or discussing different opinions between parties was not considered from the beginning. During the plenary session of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee held soon after, it took merely seven minutes from the session opening announcement by Yun Ho-jung, the head of the Legislation and Judiciary Committee, to the passage of the bill. It is an anti-democratic infringement of even the minimum formality required for the discussion of bills.
As soon as President Moon Jae-in expressed his wish to launch the CIO during the regular session of the National Assembly on Monday, the ruling party’s one-sided legislation began. This is exactly why the ruling party accounting for 174 seats is legislating bills according to Cheong Wa Dae’s instructions, rather than keeping the administration in check. The ruling party is attempting to recover its approval rating by passing bills that please pro-Moon supporters. However, it should keep in mind that such anti-democratic infringement will only lead the general public to further turn away from the government and the ruling party.