Assembly breaks ethics promiseThe National Assembly vetoed an arrest motion for a ruling party lawmaker associated with a bribery case, while giving the go-ahead to a similar motion for an independent lawmaker accused of illegal electioneering. In an inaugural session earlier this month, Assembly Speaker Kang Chang-hee urged the newly elected representatives to “restore public confidence in the legislature.” However, the hope seems to have evaporated as an arrest motion for Representative Chung Doo-un of the ruling Saenuri Party, who is embroiled in a bribery case involving the president’s elder brother Lee Sang-deuk, was only supported by 74 votes with 156 vetoing the motion.
With the veto, arrest procedures for Chung will be put on hold until the Assembly is no longer in session. The case will be reviewed again after the Assembly session ends on Aug. 4, but prosecutors must seek new charges to bring against the lawmaker. During this time, the four-term member of the Saenuri Party will likely do his best to defend his seat, and the prosecutors’ case against Chung could be watered down.
The veto of the arrest motion is unjust in legal reasoning as well as sentiment. Advocating for Chung in the Assembly before the vote, Representative Kim Yong-tae said that court review on an arrest motion applies to suspects in custody. But what Kim cited in criminal law applies to ordinary citizens, not legislators who cannot be sent away without legislative approval. His reasoning on the court’s decision is simply not persuasive, even if he would like us to believe that it is. The legislative action also does not comply with previous political promises made by the major parties. A few days ago, Chung said that he wouldn’t invoke his immunity as a lawmaker. Floor leader Lee Han-koo also said that the ruling party has vowed to surrender immunity. The Saenuri Party repeatedly said it would prove itself different by divorcing itself from past luxuries like the legal immunity from physical detention enjoyed for years.
What’s even more ludicrous is that many from the main opposition Democratic United Party joined the ruling party in approving an arrest motion for their former member and now independent Park Joo-sun and rejecting the same motion for Chung. It is not difficult to read the obvious innuendo the DUP is sending to the Saenuri Party: “We helped you this time, so you help us when a similar motion arrives for our floor leader Park Jie-won.”