[EDITORIALS]Resign, yes; impeach, no

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[EDITORIALS]Resign, yes; impeach, no

The main opposition Grand National Party has moved to dismiss Prosecutor General Shin Seung-nam; it has been demanding Mr. Shin's ouster for some time. When he refused to appear as a witness before the National Assembly's Legislation and Judiciary Committee, the Grand Nationals opted for his impeachment as if they had been waiting for the opportunity. Since the Assembly's speaker had said that he would process the motion in accordance with the law, a vote is expected to take place over the weekend. The National Assembly Act stipulates that such a vote must be taken within 72 hours of the filing of a motion.

The Grand National Party cited four reasons for the prosecutor general's impeachment: violation of his responsibility to maintain political neutrality, refusal to heed a National Assembly summons, abuse of authority and corruption. In response, the governing Millennium Democratic Party said it would do everything at its disposal to block the passage of the motion, calling it a violation of the constitution.

We have called for Mr. Shin to resign voluntarily. We also argued at times that President Kim Dae-jung should fire him if Mr. Shin refuses to resign on his own. Most of the arguments put forward by the Grand National Party are sound. Considering the low esteem in which the public holds Mr. Shin, he has been impeached morally if not legally.

But the Grand National Party's impeachment motion has its share of legal and political problems. Legally, the reasons it outlined do not qualify as grounds for impeachment according to the constitution. An impeachment motion should contain detailed instances of law violations, as do written arraignments, but the Grand National Party only raised abstract matters. The prosecutor general is not named as an impeachable official either in the constitution or in other laws. The opposition party could seek to hold Mr. Shin politically responsible by proposing his ouster, but impeachment authority should only be exercised in accordance with the spirit of the constitution and the legal procedures. Some legal experts are saying the Constitutional Court could nullify the National Assembly's impeachment decision even if it is approved.

The United Liberal Democrats said they oppose impeaching the chief prosecutor but will participate in the vote. Since the Millennium Democrats said they would block the passage of the motion by any available means, the impeachment proposal is a political time bomb. The Grand Nationals, who are one seat short of a majority in the Assembly, cannot pass the motion on their own.

We believe the Grand National Party could lose more than it gains from forcing the impeachment proposal unilaterally. Whether the motion is approved or rejected, political repercussions, societal upheaval and bitter feelings between the ruling and opposition parties are sure to erupt. The GNP could also face criticism that seeking impeachment immediately after Mr. Shin refused to appear at the National Assembly shows that they are inflexible in handling political problems.

The National Assembly has many tasks ahead of it. It has yet to review the budget bill, which is already long overdue. Political parties should not engage in an emotional fight over the impeachment. A compromise would be the best way to minimize the side effects and to uphold law and principle. But the Millennium Democratic Party should not dismiss out of hand the popular demand for Mr. Shin's ouster. It should devise special measures to deal with deteriorating trust in the prosecution.
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