Parliament passes corruption probe unit bill

Dec 31, 2019, 09:27 am

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The National Assembly passes a bill to set up an independent unit to probe corruption by high-ranking public officials on December 30, 2019./ Photographed by Jung Jae-hoon

By AsiaToday reporter Lim Yoo-jin 

The National Assembly passed a bill to set up an independent unit to probe corruption by high-ranking public officials Monday.

The bill, finalized by the four-plus-one coalition, was passed by a 159 to 14 vote, with three abstentions. Separately, the revised bill submitted by Rep. Kwon Eun-hee of the minor opposition Bareunmirae Party was voted down right before the vote on the original bill was made.

The establishment of the corruption probe unit is aimed at overhauling the prosecution, one of the key election pledges by President Moon Jae-in. It is significant in that an institutional framework has been established to keep an eye on the prosecutors who have had a monopoly on the right to indict and to end criminal investigations. Observers say that President Moon Jae-in will push ahead with the prosecutorial reform drive, based on the institutional framework for establishing a separate corruption probe unit. 

However, some criticize that the envisioned probe unit could wield excessive authority and that it could be full of progressive lawyers working at the behest of the president. The ruling Democratic Party (DP) believes the establishment of the probe unit is expected to set sail in July next year. The unit will be tasked with investigating corruption allegations surrounding the president, the Supreme Court chief, the Constitutional Court chief, the prime minister, judges, prosecutors, police officials and other high-level officials. Another key prosecution reform bill aimed to empower police with greater investigative authority will be introduced in next parliamentary sessions.

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) vehemently opposed the passage of the bill, describing the proposed agency as a “monstrous” unit, like North Korea’s secret intelligence agency and the Gestapo. The opposition party lawmakers left the assembly’s main hall as a protest at the start of the vote via an electronic voting system.

“At the end of 2019, the most unjust bill has been passed by the people who boasted their participation in a movement for democracy,” LKP floor leader Shim Jae-chul said at the National Assembly. “The investigation unit will be a secret hiding place of the Moon Jae-in administration’s corruption and a protection agency for pro-Moon crimes,” he said.

“The LKP will immediately push for a constitutional appeal to nullify the passage of the bill,” Shim said. “Now only the wise people have the power to put the brakes on the Moon Jae-in administration that is driving recklessly toward the leftist dictatorship.”

#corruption probe unit #National Assembly 
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