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Rival parties lock horns over establishment of ‘police bureau’

Rival parties lock horns over establishment of ‘police bureau’

Posted July. 25, 2022 07:51,   

Updated July. 25, 2022 07:51


The rival parties locked horns over the weekend after a meeting of national senior police superintendents, which was held to express opposition to the establishment of a police bureau under the Ministry of the Interior and Safety. The ruling People’s Power Party called the meeting “the police’s mutiny” and said, “the government should sternly deal with collective action.” On Ulsan Jungbu Police Station chief Ryu Sam-young being sacked from the job to be put on the waiting list for organizing the meeting, the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea strongly protested, saying, “It constitutes the type of warnings issued by the (dictatorial) Chun Doo-hwan administration.” The rival parties called police each other’s ‘obedient dog’ for the previous and incumbent administrations, as controversy over the establishment of the new police bureau is set to become a key contentious issue during the first government interpellation session of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration, which will start on Monday.

“We express regret on collective action taken by police station chiefs even in violation of order from the upper chain of command against an administrative measure that is being implemented based on law and principles,” People Power Party spokesperson Park Hyung-soo said in a commentary on Saturday, demanding the administration to take stern response. Rep. Kim Ki-hyun of the party who served as the party’s floor leader, mentioned the ‘Druking (opinion rigging) scandal’ and ‘the beating of a taxi driver by a nominee of the Corruption Investigation Office of High-Ranking Civil Servants” in his Facebook post, as he blasted police for holding the meeting. “The leadership of political police, who would serve as an ‘obedient dog’ for the previous government, and police members, who would remain silent on illegal acts and excessive loyalty, is obliged to atone for their mistakes in the past and seek to find a way to restore public trust that has been tarnished,” Kim said. Rep. Lee Cheol-gyu, a police-turned politician, also said that the public will never forgive if (the police leadership) disregards legal institution and take collective action.

In contract, the Democratic Party of Korea strongly protested the sacking of senior superintendent Ryu from Ulsan Police Station chief to be put on the waiting list, and warned that his party will hold National Police Agency chief nominee Yoon Hee-geun and the Interior and Safety Minister Lee Sang-min to be responsible. “Our party will not look on idly if disciplinary actions are taken against police station chiefs who took courageous action to ensure police’s political neutrality,” Woo Sang-ho, the party’s emergency committee chair, told a press meeting on Sunday. “We will deal with National Police Agency commissioner general nominee Yoon Hee-geun at his confirmation hearing. How come a meeting of rank-and-file prosecutors can be held but a meeting of police station chiefs cannot.”

Others demanded suggestion to the government to dismiss and motion to seek the impeachment of Minister Lee. Seo Young-gyo, head of the taskforce on prevention of the Yoon Suk-yeol administration’s move to seize full control of police,’ told a press meeting on the day, “The law allows (the National Assembly) to seek the impeachment of a minister if the minister conducts act in violation of the Government Organization Act.” Rep. Kang Byung-won, a candidate in the party’s chairmanship race, said in his Facebook post, “I will submit a bill to demand the dismissal of Minister Lee,” claiming that the National Assembly can pass a bill to demand Lee’s dismissal as early as next week.

Other candidates in the party’s chairmanship race also joined the foray en masse. “(The government) should stop regressive attempts to seize full control of the police,” adding, “Before anything, withdraw the order that sacked and put police station chief Ryu on the waiting list, which will decrease police officials’ morale.” Rep. Park Yong-jin said that the Yoon administration’s intention is fulfilled, police will be downgraded to become an ‘obedient dog’ of President Yoon’s key confidents.

Ji-Hyun Kim jhk85@donga.com