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Rejected vote on Corp. Chae’s case must not lead to further turmoil

Rejected vote on Corp. Chae’s case must not lead to further turmoil

Posted May. 29, 2024 08:01,   

Updated May. 29, 2024 08:01


South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol's veto of the "Special Prosecutor Act for Corp. Chae" was upheld on Tuesday in a re-vote in the National Assembly. The bill required a two-thirds majority, or at least 196 votes, out of the 294 participating members to pass. However, it received only 179 votes in favor. Assuming all 179 opposition members voted in favor, it appears that four votes from the 115 ruling party members were rendered invalid in the anonymous ballot.

Before the vote, five members of the ruling People Power Party (PPP)—Ahn Cheol-soo, Kim Woong, Yoo Ui-dong, Choi Jae-hyung, and Kim Geun-tae—publicly expressed their support for the proposed bill. Given the PPP’s official stance against the bill, the ruling party leaders urged their members to adhere to it, and the bill was ultimately defeated in the 21st session of the National Assembly.

Nevertheless, the allegations of external pressure in the investigation into Corp. Chae’s death are unlikely to be dismissed. The ongoing investigation by the Corruption Investigation Office for High-ranking Officials (CIO) into the Ministry of National Defense and the Marine Corps has already suggested outside influence in the handling and delay of the Marine Corps investigation findings. The CIO must continue to pursue investigations without sanctuary, irrespective of the introduction of a special prosecutor.

The Democratic Party has pledged to reintroduce the Special Prosecutor Act for Corporal Chae immediately upon the opening of the 22nd National Assembly, with other opposition parties also expressing support. This sets the stage for another intense confrontation between the ruling and opposition parties over the bill, potentially repeating the recent parliamentary turmoil all over again in the upcoming session.

Both parties must be willing to compromise to avoid further conflict. The PPP has identified several problematic clauses in the opposition’s special prosecutor bill, including those granting the Democratic Party the right to recommend special prosecutor candidates and to brief the media on the investigation’s progress. Reaching a bipartisan agreement on these contentious points could prevent unnecessary conflict and public division.

The case initially aimed to uncover the truth behind the tragic death of a 20-year-old marine. However, the focus has shifted to political wrangling with emerging evidence of external pressure and the appointment controversy involving former Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup as Ambassador to Australia. The introduction of a special prosecutor should not be a matter of partisan victory or defeat. It is crucial for President Yoon and others involved to demonstrate accountability and work towards a resolution to prevent prolonged discord.