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Assembly broadcaster raided for brawl video

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Oct 19,2019
The prosecution on Friday conducted a search and seizure operation at the National Assembly Television, a broadcaster specialized in parliamentary affairs, as a part of its investigation into the violent clash among lawmakers in April.

The Seoul Southern District Prosecutors’ Office said Friday that its prosecutors and investigators were sent to the broadcaster’s office, located inside the National Assembly building in Yeouido, western Seoul, to seize necessary data. The prosecution did not officially announce the specific purpose of the raid, but sources said it was to secure evidence to investigate the violent brawls among the members of the ruling and opposition parties in April at the National Assembly.

Members of the ruling Democratic Party (DP) and the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) were locked in physical standoffs from April 25 to 26, as the LKP resisted the DP’s legislative alliance to fast-track contentious bills on electoral reform and weakening the power of the prosecution. Following the incident, the rival parties submitted petitions to the prosecution against one another, demanding probes. A total of 122 people, including 110 lawmakers, were asked to be investigated.

A primary police investigation took place, and the prosecution took over the case in September.

“We don’t know the accurate purpose of the raid, but the building where the National Assembly Television is located is where the servers for the CCTV and other video records are stored,” said a National Assembly official. “The prosecutors apparently wanted to have additional data to more accurately scrutinize the brawls.”

The raid also took place hours after Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl told lawmakers to wait and see what the outcome would be. At the National Assembly’s audit on the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office on Thursday, some ruling party lawmakers urged Yoon to speed up the investigation. “I will show you an outcome,” Yoon replied.

Friday’s raid prompted speculation that the prosecution has started preparations to indict LKP lawmakers without summoning and questioning them.

Because a massive amount of video records has been analyzed by the police and prosecutors already, sources familiar with the case said the prosecution has no need for additional data unless it is considering such action.

“It is hard to forcibly summon [lawmakers] while the legislature is in session,” Yoon also said Thursday during the parliamentary audit.

Of the 110 lawmakers being investigated in the case, 60 are from the LKP, 39 from the DP and seven are from the Bareunmirae Party. Another three are Justice Party representatives, and National Assembly Speaker Moon Hee-sang is an independent lawmaker.

While the DP and others cooperated with the probe, the LKP lawmakers have refused to show up for questioning. On Sept. 27, the prosecution asked 20 LKP lawmakers to attend the questioning this month, but they were all no-shows.

Earlier this month, the prosecution sent subpoenas to 17 LKP lawmakers including Rep. Na Kyung-won for questioning sessions scheduled for Oct. 7 to 11. At the time, Na told the prosecution that the LKP lawmakers need to reschedule the questioning due to the National Assembly’s audits of the government.

Telling his lawmakers to boycott the questionings, LKP Chairman Hwang Kyo-ahn visited the prosecution on Oct. 1, although he was not summoned. “I am the chairman of the party, and I should be held entirely responsible,” Hwang said at the time. “The prosecution must behead me and stop the probe now.”

He also said the investigation is an attempt to suppress the opposition party, which had protested Speaker Moon and the ruling party’s unlawful attempt to fast-track the highly contentious bills.

The investigation is seen as a crisis for the LKP. While lawmakers from other parties are accused of using violence, the LKP lawmakers are facing heavier charges of obstructing a legislative activity. Under the National Assembly Act, the punishment for the latter is more severe.

Anyone who stops a lawmaker from entering a plenary session or a committee meeting and those who use force to interrupt a session are punishable by up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 10 million won ($8,620).

The law also says anyone punished with a fine over 5 million won for obstructing a legislative activity cannot run in an election for a minimum of five years - a tremendous setback for any politician, particularly ahead of next year’s general elections.

BY SER MYO-JA [ser.myoja@joongang.co.kr]


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