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The ruling party wins the CIO but loses the hearts of people

The ruling party wins the CIO but loses the hearts of people

Posted December. 11, 2020 07:37,   

Updated December. 11, 2020 07:37


In overwhelming support of the ruling Democratic Party of Korea, a revised bill on the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) Act passed the plenary session of the National Assembly on Thursday with 187 in favor, 99 in opposition and one abstention. The gist of the revised version is to remove the opposition’s veto at the committee empowered to select candidates for the first head of the CIO. That is, a ruling party-favored candidate can be nominated even if two opposition-party commissioners object the appointment because a quorum for candidate nomination is reduced from six to five. The ruling party pushes its way to nominate a candidate for the chief of the CIO; hold a public hearing; and launch the CIO within this year even if the opposition party does not cooperate.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in stated that the CIO can promote check and balance among major powerful authorities, right after the bill made its way through the legislative body. However, his outlook does not sound realistic. The CIO has the power to transfer a case that is investigated by the prosecution and police and put the brakes on their investigations for the convenience of its own. Although the prosecution and police may be intervened by the CIO, there is not any authority that can check and control it. It is a far cry from the positive effect of the CIO on check and balance among powerful national agencies.

As there is general concern that the CIO may wield absolute power with the prosecution and police in its hands, the ruling party has used the veto right of the opposition on the nomination of a candidate for the CIO head as good cause for the passage of the bill. However, the ruling party changed its words by arguing that there is disruption in discussions with the opposing party on nomination. It unilaterally removed the minimal vehicle for check and political neutrality, enormously supported by the majority of the National Assembly. Such a forceful decision is no different from the administration and the ruling party officially announcing that they will nominate a preferred candidate with the opposition excluded in decision-making.

It is already said by the pro-Moon camp that Prosecutor-General Yoon Seok-youl and his wife will become the first to be grilled by the CIO. Pro-Moon politicians’ quasi-threats imply that they will take revenge on Prosecutor-General Yoon who has aimed to investigate the essential core of authority while standing on the opposite side of the government. It may make considerable sense that there is some speculation that the ruling party is in a rush to expedite the establishment of the CIO with intention. It may want to intervene in the prosecution’s investigations into the premature closure of Wolseong Nuclear Power Plant and the election-meddling scandal in Ulsan because the prosecution aims at the current administration and pro-Moon figures. The CIO is supposed to practice political neutrality and procedural fairness. If it is relegated to an authority which favors and pleases those in power exclusively, it will be remembered as a shameful body enabled not by rule of law but by rule of power.

The ruling party commended the passage of the CIO Act as the completion of legislative reform. There is high hope among ruling-party members that once it pushes forward with the CIO Act, extreme supporters of President Moon will gather back to make a rebound in the government’s and party’s approval ratings. Nevertheless, its shortsightedness will only end up with less good and more harm in the bigger picture. The ruling party should look at the reality that many South Korean citizens are turning their back on it due to its lack of communication and ignorance in the National Assembly.